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Full text of "Argus"

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Northwestern State University's 
Annual Art and Literary Magazine 







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Amy Ellender 




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John Lewis 



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Caitlin Pearce 




Tim Gattie 

Catherine Hoyle 

Marcus Lee 

Justin Lyon 

Stephanie Maney 



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'UC: 




First and foremost, we'd like to t 
iidents of Northwestern who s 
' her or not your work was acce, 
ibutions, the Argus could not c 
:h great material to choose froi 

ie Kane, thank you for all your 
t the publication process. Your en. 
ro Argus are unwavering. 

to thank all of our wonderful judg^ 
eative expertise, and judgment to the m 
as invaluable. To these scholars who sacritict^ 
nds to the cause, we are in your debt. 

Ks to Katie Magana, the previous Argus editor, for all of 
,r help and advice. Without her experienced guidance, this 
sue would not have been possible. Thank you to Larrie King, 
evious design editor, for all of his assistance in developing 
e design of this issue. 

Thank you to all the faculty of the Department of Language 
and Communication and the Fine and Graphic Arts Depart- 
ment for your continued support of the Argus and for encour- 
aging students to submit their work. 

Lastly, we thank you, the reader. Many in today s society seem 
to neglect or even frown upon artistic or intellectual pursuits. 
But you, dear reader, have bravely taken up the cause to read 
and share in the Argus Literary Magazine. Written b^' '^^^^ '^'' 
dents, for the students. 









Amy Ellender 



I chose Perspectives as this year's theme for several reasons. The 
word itself can be seen from many angles, having literary, artistic, 
and philosophical meanings. I was particularly interested in 
Nietzsche's concept of perspectivism— the idea that each 
individual has his own version of truth, her own unique way of 
seeing and interpreting the world. We all see the world from our 
own unique viewpoint. When we create art, or write stories or 
poetry, we are bringing a particular perspective to life. We can 
express our own feelings on life, or create something new, entirely 
from our imaginations. 

I'd like to thank my wonderful staff who helped choose all of the 
great selections included in this issue, and my design editor who 
came up with the attractive feather design. I'd especially like to 
thank my assistant editor, John Lewis, who was always supportive 
and there to pick up the slack when the responsibilities of putting 
the magazine together became overwhelming. 

I'm so excited to be able to allow each of these authors and artists 
to share their ideas and creative talent with a larger audience. I 
hope the readers of this issue enjoy the perspectives presented and 
experience new ways of looking at the world. 



John Lewis 

When Amy roused me from my thousand year slumber and 
asked if I wanted to serve as the assistant editor of the Argus 
Literary Magazine, I was delighted. I was especially delighted 
when she informed me that it was a paid position, but mostly 
because of the opportunity to work on the Argus. The Argus 
has given me many opportunities in the past to get my own 
work published, so I was pleased to give a little bit back to the 
magazine. 

Writing is a passion of mine. It runs through my blood like 
magma, boiling and frothing in a manner unseemly. Plus, it 
distracts me from the voices that tell me to kick over trash 
cans and steal people's cats. The Argus is a literary magazine 
that has a prestigious history, and, as a writer, I take great 
pride in being able to give my fellow students the chance to 
have their creative voices heard. 

Though this is my first, and last, year as assistant editor, I 
take an almost uncomfortable amount of satisfaction in being 
able to contribute to this magazine. I'm very thankful for the 
opportunity given to me to help bring this magazine together. 
I'm thankful for being able to work with such a very excel- 
lent staff. But mostly, I'm thankful for the small fortune in 
paperclips I've smuggled out of the Argus office throughout 
the semester. 



Caitlin Pearce Design Editor 

I think designing for the Argus has been a great experience for 
me. It has taught me things about designing that I do not think I 
would have learned in the classroom. It challenged me to work 
within strict deadlines and work within a business-like 
environment. 

Since the theme of the Argus this year was Perspectives, I 
wanted to design it with a kind of ambiguous nature. I created 
the cover as a colorful peacock feather that represents the his- 
tory and background of the Argus. Then on the inside I used 
different types of feathers on title pages, headings, and page 
backgrounds to combine the Argus and the theme together. 

My thought process was "birds of a feather, flock together." 
There are so many different species of birds and they all lead 
different lives. It is the same for humanity and the perspectives 
we take on life and our experiences. 




Nonfiction 

Dr. Lisa Abney 

Dr. Lisa Abney has a Ph.D. in English, an M.A. in English, 
and a B.A. in Modem Languages. She teaches courses in 
linguistics and folklore. Currently, she is serving as the 
advisor to Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. 

Dr. William Broussard 

Dr. William Broussard graduated from Louisiana Schol- 
ars' College at NSU and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Eng- 
lish from the University of Arizona. He is an Associate 
Athletic Director for External Relations and Assistant 
Professor in the Language and Communication Depart- 
ment at NSU. 

Lori LeBlanc 

Lori LeBlanc is a former first place winner of the Argus 
Creative Nonfiction award and now teaches at NSU. 
When she is not working with her students she can often 
be found in her backyard on the Cane River Lake with her 
wonderful brood of three, loving partner, and Aussie dawg 
friends. She is also an aspiring mermaid-splish-splash. 



7 



Poetry 



Andi Boyd 

Andi Boyd is a past editor of Argus Literary Magazine and 
graduate of NSU. She is currently in her final semester at Texas 
State University where she is working towards her M.F.A. in 
Poetry. 

Pamela Francis 

Pamela J. Francis teaches composition and 20th century lit- 
erature at NSU. She has engaged with the Modernist poets her 
entire life, but has recently become infatuated with the French 
Symbolists. Her one and only creative claim to fame is the 
publication of her poem "You Said" in the back pages of a 
1983 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. 

Michelle Pichon 

Michelle Pichon is an instructor in the Language and Com- 
munication Department. She also writes creatively and has 
had several poetry publications. In 2009, she was selected for 
Country Roads Magazine's Regional Writers edition. 



Fiction 



Nahla Beier 

Nahla Mary Beier has a Ph.D. in English Renaissance from the 
University of Virginia, is married with three children, and now 
lives in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where she teaches English at 
a residential school for gifted students. Her creative nonfiction 
has been featured in many publications. 

Lisa Abney 



Art and Photography 

Michael Yankowski 

Michael Yankowski has degrees from the University of Wis- 
consin and Louisiana Tech, and has been teaching art at NSU 
forever. 

Larry King 

Larrie L. King Jr. is the Assistant Professor of Design for the 
NSU Department of Fine & Graphic Arts. He earned both 
his B.F.A. and M.A. degrees at NSU in Graphic Communi- 
cations, and served as Design Editor for the Argus for three 
years. 

Leslie Gruesbeck 

Leshe Gregory Gruesbeck serves as Assistant Professor 
of Art and Gallery Director for the Department of Fine & 
Graphic Arts. The Argus is a publication near to her heart as 
she served as editor of the publication for two terms. 

Brooks Defee 

Brooks DeFee is a master draftsman and the watercolor guru 
at NSU. 



9 



M''am 



M)11 




Poetry 

1 St Place 

Sestinafor Moartea - Amanda Sabala 
2nd Place 

Something Went Wrong - Dustin Burris 
3rd Place 

Vipers - Stephanie Branch 
Honorable Mention 

Awkward - Patricia Doughty 

Fiction 

1 St Place 

Say Yes, Clairee - Tammy Roton 
2nd Place 

Undefeated - Si Tucker 
3rd Place 

August 16, 1995 - Si Tucker 



Nonfiction 

1 St Place 

The Bust of Louis St. Denis - Thomas Parrie 
2nd Place 

The Paper Boomerang - Thomas Parrie 
3rd Place 

Tobacco Cure - Kristina McBride 

Visual Art 

1st Place 

The Happiest Robot - John Lewis 
2nd Place 

The Russian F/ow^r-Margaret J. Rodriguez 
3rd Place 

Taking Back Fairy Tales - Mary Hebert 

Photography 

1st Place 

Hardwired - Katie Magana 
2nd Place 

Everything Below - Katie Magaiia 
3rd Place 

Parade Route - Mary J. Rodriguez 



11 





K^mte^ 



16 Sestina for Moartea 

Amanda Sabala 

17 Big Motion 

•. Lori JeriKins 

'f|, 18 Harmony 
%kZachary Mclendon 

19 Something Went 
Wrong 

Dustin Burris 

20 Vipers 

Stephanie Branch 

21 Inane Vane 
Laura J. Emahiser 

21 Illumination 
Korey Bums 

22 Heavenly Night Sky 
Ashton Lace Ebarb 

23 Bar Fight 
Zachary Mclendon 

24 Addicts Anonymous 
Betsy Loyed 

26 Normal Hill 

Baylea Jones 

27 The Change 
in Birthdays 
Betsy Loyed 




32 Left Over Locks 

Clemonce Heard 

34 The Steel Horse 
Betsy Loyed 

36 Awkward 

Patricia Doughty 

37 Graffiti 
Clemonce Heard 

38 Fallen Grandeur 

Amanda Sabala 

39 Car Wash Epiphany 

Patricia Doughty 

40 Flight Patrol 

Patience Mattes 

41 Who Are You? 

Amanda Sabala 

42 The Farmer 

Stephanie Maney 

43 NSAID 

Marcus Lee 

44 DoopityDoo 
John Lewis 

48 The Cello Speaks 
Marcus Lee 

49 Jeepney 
Richard Wilder 

50 Because He Could 
Not Stop For Death, 

1 Kindly Waited with Him 

Amy El lender 



51 My Letter to the 
Ebbing Tide 

Justin Lyon 

52 Birth of an Incubus 

Courtney Hawkins 

53 Her Thoughts, Set Free 

Stephanie Maney 

54 Metamorphic Process 
of an Argument 
Marcus Lee 

I; 55 This Page is a 

Placeholder for the Poem 
I'm Supposed to Write 
Amy Ellender 

56 AVillanelletothe 
Aspiring Writer 
Justin Lyon 

57 You 'n' Me, Pluto. 
You 'n' Me. 

John Lewis 

60 Jenny 

Timothy Stanford 

61 The Happiest Robot 

John Lewis 

62 The Russian Flower 

Margaret J. Rodriguez 

63 Taking Back 
Fairy Tales 

Mary Hebert 

64 Rooster 

Timothy Stanford 

65 Black Lake 
Jeremy Jones 



66 Hardwired 

Katie Magana 

67 Everything Below 
Katie Magana 

68 Parade Route 

Margaret J. Rodriguez 

69 Manning the Rails 
Richard Wilder 

72 Undefeated 
Si Tucker 

78 The Cedar in 
the Fence Row 

Sherri Sharpe 

81 Say Yes,Clairee 

Tammy "Roton 

86 Modus Operandi 

Si Tucker 

90 History Class 

Jillian Corder 

91 August 16, 1995 

Si Tucker 

94 Sweet Captivity 

Christalyn Whitaker 

98 The Bust of 
Louis St. Denis 

Thomas Parrie 

100 The Paper Boomerang 
Thomas Parrie 

104 How to Eat Cereal 

Kristina McBride 

106 Tobacco Cure 

Kristina McBride 

108 The Searcher 

Thomas Parrie 



13 



...flM 





Amanda Sabala 

I am a student of creation, who travels west, 

but my ink runs out and turns dusky green. 

Words are my essence, but I can't script them on the wall 

that towers in my mind. It's there a soft lily 

sprouts out and away from letters. It's here, the sun 

plummets through plated wood... and it's so sad, 

sad, sad, so very, pathetically sad. 

How can I read what goes west? 

There is no light, no hope, no sun! 

You can't read; I can't read; no one can see in green. 

There are no more springing... a lily. 

Yet, I can see it fall; a crumbling, small wall. 

Creations continue forward, waiting for a brick wall 
to stop the full, ongoing, unending, wretched sad 
fall. What is appropriate? you ask. An unopened lily, 
for it will always wait for the final step towards west. 
There is no more of a healthy world; no more green. 
It's here, to the north, that I await the hot sun, 

for it reminds me of such love for my son. 

I can only cry like a wretched star against my grave wall. 

Deep, wet moss crawls to invent an unseen green. 

I'm waiting to write, and I'm sad, so sad 

that my feet dig in dust and ice. I do not go west! 

I can't! Not yet. . .no, not yet, to you, dear Lily. 

When I come, sweet daughter, I will bring you a lily, 
the same that named you for me. It's kept in a hidden sun 
My daughter and son love their home to the west 



and my study to the south. But my wall, my wall 

is covered in thick silks; heavy, sad silks that are always sad. 

Tears of words and salted water drops in a basin filled in green 

Can you see it? The fallen splendor doused in green? 
Do you see where it asks for you? For a lily? 
Guess what I feel as you become me. The Sad. 
I know what you (can) cry over. Is it the sun? 
Do you feel what I break? Your mental wall. 
You are to take my pen, for I get to go west. 

No longer will I be sad for your sun. 

Feel my vibrant green inject you, dead lily. 

My wall is reached and I die in the west. 




Big Motion 

By Lori Jenkins 



17 




Zachary Mclendon 



The storm's 
percussive splattering 
beats on the tin roof, 

as its thunderous bass 
keeps up with the 
lightning tempo. 

Their gusty companion 
strums the fence gate 
just right, 

ringing out creaky notes 
over the brassy cry 
of a distant train. 

And while this mad 
orchestra conducts its 
brilliant symphony, 

mute are the 
dissonant troubles 
of today, 

and the 

offbeat worries 
of tomorrow. 




He was a family man said his picture-filled wallet 
sitting on a pile of clothes in his empty room. 
A loving man said the bouquet of fresh flowers in 
a vase is the lightly lit living room; a brave man 
said the old Marine picture in his daughter's dark 
room. A working man said the carpenter's belt and 
the used blueprints in the closet; a Christian man 
said the Bible with the ruffled pages. 

A woman lived with him said the dress laid out on 
the bed with a matching purse and shoes; he had a 
daughter and two grandchildren said the picture-filled 
wall. They enjoyed the water said the house with a 
beautiful view of the lake; they cared how their home 
looked said the lawn mower and weed eater in his 
garage. They liked sports said the television on ESPN, 

But something went wrong said the undone dishes in 
the sink. He was ill said the doctors' bills in the full 
mailbox; he was steadily getting worse said the 
teardrops drying on the hospital bed sheets. The 
broken hearts of his loved ones said that he will never 
be forgotten; the mourning souls of others said it 
never should have ended this way. Something went 
wrong, they say. 



19 





Stephanie Branch 



You're like a fox coaxing the pursuit of endless hounds 

Only once they've overtaken you 

They realize you're a wolf painted up 

Eager to cannibalize your own kind 

You spew insults followed by poorly framed apologies 

As though your golden voice could gild pain 

And make a treasure of it 

You've made vipers of your friends 

Who you eagerly mistake for garden hoses 

Left coiled in the parched gardens of selflessness 

Where they did the opposite of starve 

But lacked means to expel all the 

Shit sliding through their singular veins 

These living creatures writhe, 

Praying for you to tread on them 

So they can open their jaws 

& devour you whole. 




Laura J. Emahiser 

Poets quote poets 

More maudlin than they 

With the first strains 

of the Crimson Symphony of change- 

And yet wax-and-vvane remain 




Illumination 

By Korey Bums 



21 



Ashton Lace Ebarb 



Sun fades away and moon appears 
unfailingly so each day of the year. 
But what of the stars shining bright? 
They are a reminder of God's holy light, 
ever shining and guiding us right. 
Distant yet near, and mysterious aye, 
is the most heavenly night sky. 





Zachary Mcleifdon 

Ambulance sirens flicker through 

the backseat of a cruiser, illuming a grin 

and busted knuckles turning blue. 

I painted his nose a crimson hue: 

my final stroke carved his chin. 

And when the masterpiece was through, 

the bastard got what he was due. 

He laid there pleading and reeking of gin 

under humming beer-signs glowing blue. 

Passing headlights flicker through 

the backseat of a cruiser, illuming a grin 

and a lovely thought of you. 

Now your beauty won't be black and blue. 



23 



Betsy Loyed ^ 



Hello. 

My name is Betsy, 

and I am an addict. 

I am addicted to the slow bum 
of 90 proof whiskey in my throat, 
the indifferent haze that settles on me, 
that weightlessness inside my skull, 
the feeling of freedom 
that can only come from 
being free from myself. 

I am addicted to the tense give 

of the pedal beneath my foot, 

the wind that almost blinds me, 

turning my hair into a 

frenzy of fiercely stinging nettles 

that assault my face, 

the loud, powerful growl of 

the beast in my control that 

heeds the commanding whims 

of my hands and my feet. 

I am addicted to the high whine 
of the machine that stabs 
ink deep into my skin, 
the pain that blossoms and dies 
in sudden, spiking bursts 
like a flashbulb in my vision, 
the memories that I will wear 



I 



stained on me forever. 
To the images that are not only 
in my heart, and in my mind, 
but also on my body. 

I am addicted to the sharp stab 

of the .14 gauge needle as it 

sinks through my flesh, 

the easy glide of the 

metal bar through the newly made wound, 

to the shine of the surgical steel hoop and ball 

that decorates my lip. 

To the smug satisfaction 

of facing the pain 

and coming away relatively unscathed. 

I am addicted to feeling everything: 

the euphoria that engulfs me 

with every fiery sip; 

the adrenaline that floods me 

as my foot and the pedal touch the floor; 

the pleasant emotion that warms me 

as I survey my intentional scar; 

the senseless pleasure that fills me 

as I see my adorned body. 

Hello. 

My name is Betsy. 

I am an addict, 

and I'm nowhere near clean yet. 



25 




Baylea Jones 



I walk the shaded path beneath 

the old oak tree. 

I marvel at its limp and tired branches, 

and step upon its fallen leaves. 

I follow the cracked concrete 

up the cold, stone steps. 

I ascend the rock staircase 

and try to catch my breath. 

I stare out into the open field. 

I see the fountain flow. 

The water trickles down the bricks, 

its stream so calm and slow. 

I turn my gaze the other way 

and look up a little high. 

Three white columns stand tall 

and tower into the sky. 

There's a world just beyond it. 

But here atop this hill 

the modem world is lost, 

and history stands still. 




Betsy Loyed 



May 10, 1998 

That spring our yard was green and lush. 
Dusky blue and purple sky 
looked down on the backyard, 
sickly sweet scent of honeysuckle 
diminished by the sharp, acrid odor of the bonfire. 
Laughter, loud and bright, filled the yard 
people and food did too. 

Tent pitched over beside the fire for my sleepover, 
wire hangers twisted and bent out of shape 
for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, 
ice cream and big cake with the number six on top. 
So much excitement, a child's silly grin out of breath 
and happy. Daddy held my hand as I blew out the candles, 
so big from such a tiny perspective. 
My favorite gift, 

a fluffy white teddy bear with shining gold wings 
and a halo. Daddy said it would keep the monsters away. 
The sheer joy of childhood and growing. 
I didn't know Daddy was sick. 

June 10, 1998 

Asleep on a hospital bed, 

curled up for nap time, 

already used to the beeps and hums of machines. 

Low tones of grown-up conversation 

woke me, but I kept my eyes closed, 

the sounds in the voices warning me 



^n 



to pretend I couldn't hear the quiet, official 
sounding whisper of the doctor that said 
"We're doing all we can, Mr. Loyed, but 
the cancer isn't responding as we'd hoped." 
Long pause, then a voice familiar and yet hoarser 
and thick, "How long." Silence seemed to 
stretch to the edges of forever... 
"Maybe six months. I'm very sorry." 
Confused, a little girl lay beside her father, 
wondered if she could have ice cream. I opened 
my eyes to ask, squinched them shut tightly again. 
I'd never seen him cry before. 
I still didn't know how sick Daddy was. 
I thought it was just a check-up. 

April 3, 1999 

First baseball game of 

the Dixie Youth Little League. 

Only girl on my team; that was 

okay, Daddy was the coach. 

Made my first home run on 

the first day of coach pitch. 

He lifted me up in the bright lights 

of the ballpark, swung me around 

with hearty and proud laughter. 

Put me down quickly though, turned 

to vomit on the well-tended turf. 

I asked Mom what a cancer was— 

she said it was a monster that 

was eating him up from the inside. 

I knew Daddy was sick. But 

I thought he was getting better. 

May 10, 1999 

Springtime again. The grass was 



i 



still green, but it was dotted with 

coarse brown spots. Birthday for me again, 

seven years old! I felt like the big shot. 

Friends and I made messes of ice cream 

and cake while the adults stood around 

in that serious way they did. 

No tent or bonfire this year. 

Daddy couldn't do them. Tired and pale 

he could only sit in his chair. 

I didn't forget him. I sat in his lap 

felt safe and secure while I opened 

my presents and shared my happiness with him. 

I couldn't forget Daddy was sick. 

But I tried to for a little while. 

July 4, 1999 

Fireworks, so much excitement! 

Big party at the Ramada Inn as usual, 

sunburns and fried food, we always slid 

down the bluffs on wide pieces of cardboard. 

He looked like he used to that day, except for 

his missing hair. Early that week he lost his first 

bit of his luxurious red hair; handed Mom the 

clippers and with a buzz it was all gone. 

They went to the bedroom, left the razor 

alone. Came back out, I had shaved mine off 

too. His tears unsettled me but his loving hug 

made it better. But on that holiday it was all smiles and 

infectious grins, no weakness or sickness. 

I ran and schemed with my cousins, 

carefree and exuberant, raided the kitchens 

and swam in the pool, uncaring of the looks 

our twin bare scalps attracted. No worries that day. 

I thought Daddy was almost better. 



29 



May 10,2000 

Dull lackluster sunshine, 

grass still grey from winter. 

Only a couple of birds sang. 

Eighth birthday, but I only invited 

over one friend. Daddy was in 

the hospital again, more chemo. 

When he saw my teddy bear in his room 

he looked confused, asked why. 

"You said it would keep monsters away. 

It'll scare away the monster that's always 

hurting you." Third time I'd seen him cry. 

I didn't like it— it scared me more than 

any thunderstorm or nightmare. 

This man so tired and pale with the 

criss-cross net pattern of a radiation mask 

etched in his swollen skin was not 

the same man I had always known. 

I was watching Daddy fade away. 

April 15,2001 

Easter Sunday. I spent it with 

family friends. The week before 

Daddy collapsed, had to call the ambulance. 

I was upset but I was okay. 

Called him in the morning just 

to say "I love you, I miss you, 

Happy Easter!" Mom held the phone 

to his ear, doctor had him doped up 

on morphine to dull the pain; he couldn't 

even hold up the receiver. But he knew my voice. 

Mom said he smiled so wide it lit the room. 

I didn't know I wouldn't talk to him again. 



April 17,2001 

Came home from school , 

my grandmother walked outside. 

She had red eyes and shaking hands. 

"Daddy's gone, baby." A grown up 

statement, a child's simple and stupid 

response, "Gone where?" 

I didn't wait to hear the answer, 

just turned and ran, away from the 

words I already knew. "Heaven." 

I didn't cry, not a tear, not then. 

May 10,2001 

No ninth birthday party. 

I told Mom I didn't want one. 

I sat by Daddy's grave all afternoon, 

opened my few gifts there so I could 

still share with him. 

I cried with my Daddy that day 

as I finally tried to say goodbye. 



31 




Clemonce Heard 



Sitting here reminiscing not missing past misses. 

As I stare, at my hair and the strands of earlier female friends 

that are still mixed in. So interesting that they all possess keys to 

my locks since their hair is forever 

locked in my locks enlisted from twisting. 

Being twisted in my history covalent bond is our chemistry. 

Every different dye I see is a different joy and a different misery. 

Fine line between the black intertwined in my brown crown her 

elevator attitude kept me up, down. 

And all around going in circles in her monthly cycles that felt 

forever, we were worse together better to disperse so I let her, 

rather than hurt. Flap her feathers, spin her period propellers and 

lift off. Instead of a splat to a pitfall documented in my domain 

as the woman that palm rolled all. 

Her opposite was a redhead whose body was fit. I hollered 

quick at her thick thighs, glossed lips, that had a great make that 

seemed fake and counterfeit, viewed her frame as a monument. 

Grown gal, mysterious and confident my personal masseuse who 

would take away my aches and pains, 

worship my temple like Jesus. 

She really enjoyed, my mental and I adored the brain she gave 

me so her dimples I pursued. It's too bad it could have been so 

simple but with two kids and a husband as her kinfolk her love I 

had to refuse. I may have lost her but her read fox fur in my hair 

is forever fused. So her hues I will never lose. 

The complement to this misses was a brunette that would send 

me Hershey kisses, relayed baton letters in the mail that would 

pass her wishes. Our conversation felt so unreal and fictitious. 

Me and this female exchanged mail and never missed a tale. 

So religious how we traded this misunderstood physics. Each 

envelope engulfed my most recent lyrics I wrote and I quote 

gave permission to open my bars imprisoned in my thoughts 



locked art we lived apart but drawn by hearts we would lay and 

listen on her pillows of peace. Her strands that shed I would 

keep. As my needed optimism when defeat stepped on me from 

not choosing to be with her instead. 

And finally, the blue eyed blonde head. I knew she would 

probably grow to dread my dreads. Since her golden tiara 

wasn't the only flame that was unfed. My lion's mane was 

made and shared with black, brown, and red of past beds. 

Whose hair became parasites and fed on my untamed roots. 

Rapunzel's blonde grail made my tips look burned or inflamed, 

induced with sweet specs like lemonade. We had great times, 

but the memories of living mistresses haunted her brains, 

disturbance flowed through her veins. But who's to blame, 

they all point their fingers at me. I guess since they all possess 

keys to my locks, since their hair is forever locked in my locks. 

Enlisted from twisting in my history with every lock I twist I 

wonder if they're missing me. 



33 





an^e/ 



Betsy Loyed 



This place has split personalities. 

Durin' the day it is quiet, unassuming. 

Just a structure of wood and concrete, 

metal and nails. 

But when the night creeps over 

it lurches into life. 

A deep thrummin' bass line 

hits like a heartbeat 

buh dum buh dum buh dum 

Bodies press in from all sides 

movin' and standin' and dancin' 

jostlin' for space that doesn't exist 

The woman passin' out the 

liquid courage says Honey if you ain't 

livin' on the edge you takin' up 

too much space 

All the cells laugh and guffaw 

hem and haw hem and haw 

eyes at half-mast and steady droppin' 

Uh oh time to cut 'em off 

Anybody know of a cab company 

A guttural roar shoves its way 

through the mob of sound 

makin' no apologies 

demandin' respect 

vrooooom vroom BANG vroom 

The boys are here 

dismountin' from their rides as they 

sing I'm a cowboy on a steel horse I ride 

and I'm wanted dead or alive 



From the way they're wobblin' 

they're probably already through 

the better part of a half-gallon of whiskey 

The walls seem to expand and 

shrink like they're breathin' 

Over on the concrete slab floosied up 

with swirlin' rotatin' swingin' lights 

arms wave through the hazy air 

Lit cancer sticks might bum 

sizzle, hiss, OUCHHHHH 

But hey shoulda watched where you were goin' 

The air is smoky and thick 

like the lungs of a smoker 

who just took a drag 

Can't hear the familiar click clack drop 

of the pool games anymore 

The heart's beatin' too loud 

The hips are movin' too much 

The stomach's ready for a break I think 

It just ran towards the bathroom 

that's not gonna be pretty 

Can somebody please close that door 

Oh look they're passin' out shots 

the smack of the glass followed 

by the splash of the Crown 

Me me I'm next in line 

and you can go after I guess 

If you can't keep up don't even show up 

We'll be here till momin' light 

It can be real friendly 

but oh honey it can be real mean 

Either way the shots are on you 

and the drinkin's all for me. 



35 




Patricia Doughty 



Awkward - Even the word looks out of place 

Look at it - all full of w's like it is 

It suggests a direction with it "ward" 

Like toward, forward or backward 

But it is just stuck in awkward pauses 

and awkward situations 

Peeking around - trying to figure out where it is going 

It's just hanging out in the dictionary 

Wearing all the wrong letters 

The other words near it feel so definite about things 

Like Awesome and Awful 

No, they don't find themselves in uncertain teenagers 

With no style, bad hair and acne 

Awesome is in the cheerleaders and football players 

Awful hangs around with the 

mean-spirited thugs that no one crosses 

I 1 mean Awkward sits alone 




Clemonce Heard 



Aerosol, Aerosol 

Paint the walls until they call the laws 

Taint so all can see our aerostatic flaws 

We've made to stall. 

The walkers and the cars that drive by 

Let's leave our prints, imprints and paws 

Into private property to preoccupy 

Their pupils enthrall their eyes 

Audit their minds. 

Let's be mischievous and vandalize 

Forget the red octagonal signs 

Don't slow down on yellow 

Let's go 

Let's climb over walls and under gates 

Let's calculate how many rules we can break 

Trespassing, obstruction, defacement of constructions. 

Desecration let's cause eruption 

Let the Reno's ears start flaming 

Let's blow the wigs off the pigs 

Let em get mad. Have 'em run 

Through the town like pacman in a maze. 

Going in zig zags for days. 

While we violate and infiltrate 

Abandoned real estate 

And paint our names on several trains 

Spray-paint our names 

Spray-paint our fame 

So for eternity we'll remain. 

Like a carving in a tree 

For everyone to see our fantasy. 

So every location those locomotives go 

They'll know our love on rails and tracks for everyone 

To tell and see a landmark 

Of our history immortalized in 

Graffiti. 



37 





Amanda Sabala 



Has she noticed the black wire weeds 

entangling her wings yet? 

She flew high before with the exalted pleasure 

of white graces in vacant dark. 

Curls won't become knotted in feathers. 

Will she miss sky life? The cream garment 
fluttered in high winds like her wings 
that flit, damaged, to the unseen ground. 
Bones slide into grey, smeared light 
where vines incessantly wrap wings. 

Scales of radiance break over her forehead. 
The cloth is no longer elegant. It depletes 
the gleam of her skin. Her lips are thick 
and dimmed with age. Has she noticed 
that her eyes and hair are the same? 



Patricia Doughty 



Decision Day 
On my way 
Wash my car 
I'm a star 
Drive on in 
Enter pin 
Water starts 
Washes parts 
Thinking time 
Clear my mind 
Should I go? 
Still don't know 
Washing still? 
Is this real? 
Washing more 
Every door 
Just my luck 
Sucker's stuck 
Grab my phone 
Shit dead zone 
Washing still 
Every wheel 
Wish I could 
See the hood 



O.K. think 
O.K. think 

Decision time 
Clear my mind 
Washing more 
Flooding floor 
Washing still 
Washing still 
I can't go 
Light says so 
See it blink 
I can't think 
Hey just wait 
I'll be late 
I can't go 
I can't go 

Epiphany: 

I've never been good at decisions 



39 




^ ^ Patience Mattes 



I was flying a kite yesterday 
and it occurred to me that I, 
in fact, was jealous. 

I envy the thin diamond 

because it can soar away from 
this terrain 

to whisper in the trees' ears, 
play chase with the birds, 

and salsa dance with the wind. 
It can kiss the clouds, 
peek at the angels, 

and race with planes. 

It witnesses a view 
that few will ever see. 

Uninvited from its elite flight club, 
I'm excluded from the fun 
and must remain banished 
to the main land. 

A shrewd smile smudges my face 
when I see what I must do. 
The kite is attached to a string 
that I control 
here 
from the ground. 
So I pulled that privileged shape 
right 
back 
down. 



^^M^ks^a/t^ l^^pu^f^ 




Amanda Sabala 



I am a man of Socrates, 
offering little protection 
to dear, first grade students. 

Free-loving minors 

are hanged 

over community wires. 

Snaking paperwork slithers and spits 
perfections and weak legs at legislations. 
Social fights rattle out office-arrows, 
aiming for progression. 

I am a man of Socrates. . . 
religious contempt 
strides through lobbies 
creating self-pleasing morals. 

Socrates man, 

that is who I am! 

Allow me to make political suicide. 



41 



/^ ' 




Stephanie Maney 



Guess you folks wanna know 

how they got blind, huh? She did it, 

that wife of mines, if you wanna call her that. 

I can't tell ya' where it 

went wrong. She was a pretty wholesome thang 

when I married her. Clean, too. Kept herself an' 

the house up just fine. Guess she became 

lazy over time, seeing I had to 

tend to the plowin' an' the 

plantin' an' the cows an' 

the chickens an' the bam an' 

the fencin'. House started lookin' dirtier 

than the bam, there. Soon, 

dog-gone thangs moved from the 

bam to ma musty house. Curtains 

yellowed from the winter snow 

seepin' 'tween the splintered sills. 

Soot stacked like flat butter on 

the cab'nets from the chimney smoke. 

So much dirt on the damn 

floor you could plant 'taters. That's 

what blinded them three dad-gone 

mices-all that dirt an' funk! Po' 

mices got all hysterical, couldn't 

find they way out. So let 'em chase 

her ass 'round the house; least the rush 

of that long dress she wear 

sweep the flo' when she runs. 

Nasty heifer. 



Q^CL=^^ 




Marcus Lee 



It's always so boring here. 

I'm alone and sitting in the dark, 

bundled up tight, 

in the same place, on the same mark. 

I can't see anything around, 
but I can hear voices sometimes; 
always so much complaining, 
it just constantly whines 

about some type of pain. 

The last time I heard this annoying voice 

there was a jostling around 

and a tearing kind of noise. 

Then there was a blinding light, 
and fresh air sucker punched me. 
It was so raw and so new, 
hitting me unexpectedly. 

I started to get used to the new world; 
unlike my home, it wasn't a bore, 
but then— 
swallowed up by darkness once more. 

So much awful humidity; 

filthy, moist air all around, 

such a hot; wet; and soft environment, 

it's a nasty place I seem to have found. 

I remember falling, free-falling, 
landing in a smelly mess. 
I was burning and fading away, 
dissolving into nothingness. 



43 



m^^"^ ^ ^ John Lewis 




In the shadows of my factory scuttling can be heard. 

Not the scuttling of rats. 

Oh, how I wish it were rats. 

They have long since gone, their fate I do not doubt. 

Out of the darkness a bent figure darts across, 
engrossed in its grisly work. 
A flash of ochre, light catches a gnarled, 
four- fingered hand. 

I am wretched, in this cage I have built for myself. 

Once, my factory had been a thriving business, 
producing products praising the world over. 

Until they came. 

Until, in the deepest, darkest comer of my factory, 
I discovered a hole. 

I thought nothing of it at the time. 
Then my workers disappeared. 

I should have laid mortar to it on the first day. 

Imagine my surprise the next day, 

when instead of employees, 

there were small, copper-skinned creatures 

in suspenders three sizes too big, laboring, 

shadows dancing across their hairless heads. 



But what caused me to turn a blind eye to the fate of my workers? 
Perhaps it was the zeal for their labor. 
Perhaps it was the lack of understanding 
on what a paycheck was. 

I could deny no longer when I saw them feed. 

Gruesome, the grisly sight of their 
chins, greased with gristle and gore. 

How long could free labor assuage my fears 
of their broken teeth, their vacant stares 
glinting in the shadows, animalistic in nature. 

And they sing. 

Did I mention that they sing? 
They drone and they mutter 
and they sway to and fro. 
Hobbling and jostling 
and chanting their songs. 

Day and night 

they slave away, 

though I am the thrall. 

The light, despised by their crinkled, 

alabaster eyebrows, 

is denied me by their hisses. 

They grow harsher by the day. 
They take greater risks. 
Putting on tasteless performances, 
using company property as props. 
But the worst comes at night, 
the scratching at my door. 



45 



the hushed whispers at my window. 

Purple is a color they have never seen 
Do they not have hues in that 
horrid place they spawned from? 
It is soothing to them, 
so I wreathe myself in it. 
Becoming a violet specter 
haunting the halls of my own tomb. 

I am a ringleader without a whip. 
A garish spectacle dancing 
to a tone-deaf tune 
sung by monsters. 

Has my madness taken new form? 

They've taken to wearing 

bright, green wigs 

to cover the awful tattoos 

they carve into their scalps. 

Are they trying to be human? 

I can't help but laugh. 

Scarcely my thoughts turn 

from my own freedom. 

But the key to my cage 

lies in their distended, orange bellies. 

Poison. 

Murders do wonders, 

but to sicken is quickened. 

Into that hole, that blackest 
of wounds in the earth, 
tumbled a goat, laden with poison. 
Sickened at the slobbering 



and the gobbling and the gorging, 

I waited. 

Minutes distorted to hours. 

A beam of light revealed 
crimson chins below 
grinning grins and 
eyes glinting with glee. 

They only stared. 
They just stared. 

I can take no more. 

I must be rid of my burden. 

My torment could just as easily 

be anyone else's. 

I must give away my factory. 

A contest of random chance, 
that is all they would believe. 
Perhaps I can make my 
replacement come to me... 

For the first time they speak to me. 

Not in song, but in a voice as hollow 

and deep as the crack they had crawled from. 

They want a child... 

Dear God, they want a child! 



47 



Sometimes music is best without lyrics. 

Sometimes the instrument wants to speak, 

and the cello calls out to me. 

It has the elegant voice of a violin, 

with a deeper heavier edge. 

Its dark, rich voice sounds wise 

as it slowly prepares a story. 

It speaks to me, 

whispering a secret I'm not meant to hear. 

It tells of long mysterious nights 

with the wind caressing all in its path. 

The beautiful starry night 

is lit up by the large yellowing moon, 

a harvest moon, so bright with its pale light. 

It's like I'm there— 

when the cello speaks to me— 

sitting in a field of tall grass 

as the wind causes it to tickle my skin. 

It tickles and itches at the same time, 

but leaves me content, nevertheless. 

The faint taste of sangria and chocolate 

lingers in my mouth. 

I smell the salty scent of the ocean, 

and I can hear it sing with the cello as the waves lap. 

I imagine the moon's golden glow reflected in the ocean, 

causing it to look like flowing honey. 

A soothing effect embraces me as I drift away, 

letting the cello take me where it pleases. 

The cello speaks to me of the happiest feelings. 



almost bliss, 

but something's not quite right. 

The cello speaks of something else, 

something dark. 

I know it's there, 

I can feel it in the pit of my stomach, 

something that wants to destroy the happiness, 

that's what the cello tells me. 

It speaks to me about happiness 

and about something dark, 

something I've yet to discover; 

but I still let the cello tell me its story, 

because it takes me to new and exciting worlds, 

and I like it when the cello speaks. 




Jeepney 

By Richard Wilder 



49 







Amy Ellender 

I watched the blanket on his chest rise slightly 
as he drew another labored breath. 
The room was quiet but for the air 
rattling in his ruined lungs, and the clock 
ticking softly at his bedside. 

I'd stay with him a few more hours 

and keep him company until the end. 

He'd been in and out of consciousness 

all night, so it surprised me 

when he coughed twice, then began to speak. 

He told me about his Regret. 

The people he'd hurt, the mistakes he'd made 

when it came to the ones he loved. 

Not many woulda, coulda, shouldas, but quite a few 

wished he'd hadn'ts, wish he could take it backs. 

I listened patiently and politely as he spoke 
of the people he'd wronged, whom I had never met. 
The people he'd pushed away until there was no one left 
to wait with him but a stranger. 

I wondered what things I'd be saying in sixty years or so 
when I'm strung out on morphine and rambling. 
I don't know what I'll end up regretting, 
but I'd like to not be alone. 




Justin Lyon ^ 



I want to live my life like a seashell on the beach, 

have the waves wash over me and cull my path. 

I want to see the currents of the ocean 

twisting into knots, turning like lovers, 

legs locked in an ever loving limbo 

down lower and lower until feet touch sand 

and tiny crabs crawl over painted toes. 

I want to feel the ebb and the flow, 

the push and the pull, the in and the out 

of a game not meant to be won 

but to be experienced while I pull myself closer, 

only to be washed back again by the tide. 

I want to feel the grain of sand between the 
cracks in my feet, the trenches of my spiral. 
I want to feel inside me the movement of life 
of something that needs me for survival, 
knowing that once that life breaks out 
from its former home and leaves me to wallow 
in shallow water, that only then is it truly free. 

But is this me? 

When I feel the cold rush of water raise 
hairs on the back of my neck, and when the 
never-ending backward motion of the 
brine pulls my feet under, I wonder 



51 



Is this me? 



Now believe me when I say that what it is that 
I wish to see is nothing more than a happy dream 
a vindictive, wanton fantasy. And life ain't 
so sweet that salt still don't sting your eyes. 
The very motion of the ocean, the very swing in 
your hips drives me down when we hit the 
dance floor, and when you blow me out of 
proportion, I sing. 



I want to know what is left for me 
when I am finally left empty, 
bleached white on dried sand. 
At the very least I'll know that 
deep inside this twisted shell 
my soul sends soothing melody 
into your ears for all of time. 



Birth of an Incubus 

By Courtney Hawkins 




T^ 




Stephanie Maney 



She bought a pink diary years ago 

where secret words in 

transparent flows could have 

life, locked away between the thin sheets 

She had to lay her untold loud thoughts 
where clusters of phrases 
and pent-up remarks could have 
form, cached deep into the pink fibers 

She believed that book was a better way 

where detailed images 

could have their say about her 

hopes, hushed behind the folds of closed pages 

She gathered all those suppressed words 

where inspiring thoughts 

could be heard sprung from her 

soul, muted within the edges of crisp paper 

Then she remembered how imprisoned she felt 

with all those words 

locked in herself like scattered pictures 

and cluttered visions, needing her to release them 

And the pink diary she bought years ago 
stayed locked in her 

dresser bureaux, as you read her thoughts, set free 
know locked away was not meant to be 



53 




^ Marcus Lee 



The maggots in your mind 

begin to transform. 

They grow wings 

and move to your mouth. 

Your lips part 

to let them fly out, 

and your words hit me 

like pesky flies, 

and they won't seem to go away, 

just flying around— 

around and around my head. 

And the caterpillars in me, 

long ago became butterflies. 

They flutter around 

within my gut 

as snakes threaten 

to leave my mouth, 

eat your annoying flies, 

and hiss at you. 

My harsh words 

want to bite your head off, 

but I keep them inside 

and they take refuge behind my eyes, 

Venomous glares 

are sent your way 

as you and your duck feet 

waddle away. 










Amy Ellender 



The page is a bucket, waiting to be filled 
with words that will slosh 
back and forth. Spilling over the sides, 
splashing syllables onto the sidewalk. 

The page is a piece of paper, waiting to be crafted 
into an origami crane or bear. 
Fancy folds in the form of 
figures of speech. 

The page is a plate, waiting to be covered 
with meaty metaphors and spicy similes. 
Sweet and sour sentences 
from the imagination buffet. 

The page is an ocean. The ideas are the fish. 
With punctuation for plankton. 
But what of the whale? 

The page is my canvas. The words are my art. 
This stanza is a cliche. 
I can't even finish it 

The page is a gullible child. 

Soaking up stanzas like a sponge. 

Absorbing all that alliteration. 

If I said this poem had a deeper meaning, 

the page would believe it. 



55 





/k^y (^^-<J^^/U^ /^^^e^^ 



Justin Lyon 



Do not lose faith in your reason to write 
for what is written must someday be read. 
Those words will be a testament to your life. 

Write something every day, and every night, 
to save the words that live inside your head. 
Do not lose faith in your reason to write. 

Live with those words, you have a civil right 
to speak your mind and let your voice be heard. 
Those words will stand, a testament of your life. 

But there will come a time when you must fight 
to keep your words from being left for dead. 
Do not lose faith in that desire to write. 

You may not even live to see the height 

of appreciation for what you may have meant 

with words that read a testament of your life. 

But in the end the pen will make you quite 

immortal. You will live on through what your words have said. 

So do not lose faith in your reason to write. 

Your words remain, a testament of your life. 








John Lewis 



What is the measure of self-worth? 
Can it be measured in cups? 
What is the conversion factor? 

I know how it feels 
to be made less than you are. 
I mean, not a planet? 
That's pretty cold. 

You're a what now? 

A moon? 

r/zar can't get old. 

All the pointing, 

the laughing, 

the jeers and the leers 

Do the other planets sneer? 

Who cares if they laugh? 

Who cares if they point? 

Who cares if they pantsed you at that summer social and made 

you feel embarrassed in front of that one girl who you thought 

kind of liked you but you weren't really sure but that's aaaall 

over now. 

I mean, what the hell? 

Who even decides something like that? 

Scientists? 

What have they ever done? 

Not like you, Pluto. 

You were always the coolest. 

Temperature- wise, anyway. 



57 




imothy Stanford 



1 St Place 



John Lewis 



t 



Marsaret J. Rodrisuez 





3rd Place 



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Mary Hebert 




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Timothy Stanford 



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Jeremy Jones 



St Place 



Katie Magana 



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11 



Richard Wilder 




** ^ Si Tucker 11% 



And with that they're off, exploding forth from the crown 
of the split banner yielding the emblem of their mighty 
mascot. The cold air is a vacuum inside the masks of their 
helmets, their shoulders sealed airtight within their ten- and 
twenty-year-old shells. Their tunics are stretched across their 
solidity like the skin on skulls. Their fierce movement keeps 
them from going soft under the blinding pressure of the lights, 
from bending under the weight of the sound and fury coming 
from all and opposing sides. They see very little in terms of 
motivation, and everything in meaning, in fate, in which they 
all believe but rarely acknowledge. 

Running past themselves, some from behind catching up 
at gentle trots, their entrance is fortified by half-clad dolls 
and sounded by extreme opposites of varying physical build, 
much unlike themselves. The roar of the road into the field, 
scratched and streaked with tarnish like an old billiards table, 
is marked by a tinny microphone's announcement of their 
excited entry. They raise and wave their arms, point and 
paint recognition in the crowd of their warm welcome, which 
beckons both orally and physically for a serious win, which is 
a combination of playing a good game and kicking ass. Forty 
years later they may or may not realize that it is best to do this 
early on and die young, though no one will wish that upon 
them. 

They are, most of them, from around here. A few of their 
homes are scattered around town, on the sides of that one 
commercial avenue, where Friday nights such as this end 
somewhere along the meandering from window to window, the 
heat still in their hearts and bearing an interlocked arm with the 



only one in their lives who matters even more than their moms. 
The others, some of the big boys, live out on gravel roads near 
the city limits, where they wake up in the dark of mornings 
regardless of whether it's a school day. They are, habitually, 
lifelong consumers of rice, which grows like the dickens all 
around town, and also, habitually, extremely Catholic, that is, 
in every sense of the word. All more or less definitely believe 
in God, sure, and most of them all go to the same white-brick 
Catholic establishment on the lonely highway screaming across 
the fields, and they all stand with their thick, charred fingers 
interlocked in front of their belts and their heads downed. If 
believing is important to them, then the only thing that matters 
more than the congregation is the team, the only man with 
more power and authority is their coach, the only story more 
important than Moses and the Ten Commandments is How We 
Won Tonight. The prayer that preludes each and every game 
is evidence enough for the fact that not one of them believes in 
the idea of "home field advantage," which is an illusion held 
only by a few sets of parents and the fans who search with a 
weak mind for any and all excuses as to Why They L-Word, 
which is something discussed by only the ballsiest of souls, 
usually over drinks and behind closed doors. 

In their private individual lives, the only thing that matters 
more than whatever 's coming next is what's happening now 
and here. During the week, they may stride through white- 
walled locker-bound hallways from English to Algebra, they 
may proudly pop open a small carton of milk at lunch and side 
up with their warm, perfectly-nosed girlfriends, they may just 
about eat their erasers as they struggle and inevitably make 
a C average on their exams, with which they're extremely 
satisfied, and they may or may not be anyone at all, just a 
jock in a lettered jacket, if that much. It doesn't matter at all, 
because on Friday nights after relaxing in a sweat-smelling 
locker room post-bell they rush into a wild frenzy recognizable 
only to those who really play the game, and those are their 



73 



fathers, their coach, their teammates and compatriots wearing 
the same colors, themselves. A last-minute fury of hope 
shoots down their silent, sturdy spines as their coach, in a 
windbreaker and a whistle, tells them how it's all going to go 
down. Their freedom dies before the game and is reborn like 
a phoenix sometime after the game, but now, they belong to 
the game. Their souls belong to God, but their asses belong to 
the team. And for this they get a faded spot in a team photo, 
a few statistics and maybe one day, the ones that are true and 
undeniable players with sheer talent for their craft, they get 
a scholarship, though many of them figure the rest of their 
football lives will be marked with tossing the thing around with 
friends on workless afternoons and watching college games in 
the stands, watching the ones who can really play, the ones who 
might even have a shot at The Big Time. 

But let's not venture there, for this is all about tonight, Friday 
night, the big game, just like every other big game. Going 
10-0, that's what this is about. Their minds are on catching the 
ball, knocking the other guy down to the dying grass where 
losers weep and dream, intercepting and turning everything 
around, making way and hauling it to the End Zone. None of 
this includes school, family, friends, post-game socializing, 
no, God, no, not even her. Not even she, who watches from 
the first row of the stands, wrapped and warm, her eyes on his 
number, shoulders, arms, his every move and muscle. Not 
even she, who chats offhandedly with her own friends, who 
are nobody to him, nobody, just like the clusters of nobodies 
talking to his parents, for at these strangely intimate sorts of 
nights, everyone in the audience somehow knows everyone 
else. There is no need whatsoever for programs, but they're 
there and they're free, picked up from the same guy who takes 
back the small rust-orange tickets. What matters to those in 
the stands, those who may have once played like this but never 
will again and only with grown-up sons and grandsons, what 
matters to them is completely different and everything else 



than what's going on down on the cleat-lined field. The only 
problem is, even with the prospect of easily discerning what's 
not going on inside their helmeted heads, no matter what's 
shouted at them with or without bullhorns, there's no hope 
whatsoever of figuring out what's at the top of their lists, no, 
not exactly. Sure, they're supposed to block for the quarterback 
(who, privately, knows it all rests on him, man) and make sharp 
fast breaks down the line and get open and keep moving fast, 
fast, fast, and knock down the other guy who's potentially 
bigger, faster and stronger, sure, they know that much. Their 
eight-year-old brothers, tossing a ball from home to one another 
right outside the fence, waiting for the game, hopefully players 
of this caliber one day themselves, could tell you that. That's 
kid stuff. 

The only knowable thing regarding all this—what's internal, 
what it is they're tuned and measured to every Friday night-is 
that besides It, whatever It is, is that it isn't anything else, you 
dig? 

Except, perhaps, to the seriously layered attendees huddled 
so closely that the spectacle borders on claustrophobia for 
some, exhaling visibly from cupped red hands around chapped 
lips. There is constant incidental rubbing that to an extent 
keeps everyone around at least until the last minutes of the 
game, when everyone will start muttering their conclusive 
comments and summarizing the event appropriately as more 
or less the sum of its plays. They are true fans, girlfriends, 
sidekicks, foils, skinny watchers in hoods fondling girls just 
out of their reach, siblings, fathers watching their sons do what 
they did when they were younger and admittedly more able- 
bodied, and mothers wishing with every satisfying crunch of 
physical contact that their sons wouldn't play so rough and 
holding secret treaties with God Lord Jesus that hold that He 
can have the game any way He wants it, she doesn't care, just 
as long as her baby's alright by the end of it. This is something 
she especially worries about and prays and hopes that God Lord 



75 



Jesus keeps up His end of the covenant even more so when the 
ball's in play if her son is a quarterback. 

There is perhaps no more of an enviable position in a 
small American town than starting QB for one's high school. 
Simultaneously, the only figure carrying something even close 
to the weight your average small town high school starting QB 
carries and knows like the back of his hand is Atlas, who doesn't 
even register or have to have a certain GPA or participate in 
yearly drug testing (which in this town in basically a waste of 
time) or deal with parents and coaches and scouting-related 
pressures, the last of which is useless and ineffective against 
the gods of starting players, the natural, unwitting athletes, the 
real stars of the game who actually have a shot, those few so 
perfect they don't even know it. The starting QB, who will 
basically own most everybody's eyes tonight, as he does every 
Friday night from 7:00 to, say, 9:00 or so, give or take, has on 
his padded shoulders the weight of the game, which in this town 
and to his father waiting and unblinkingly watching him, is the 
entire world, it's the air he breathes, it's ether, it's everything. 

Impressing the moms is easy; just being out there on the 
field at all, really, that's all it takes. It's their fathers they have 
to work for: their fathers, freelance assistant coaches whose 
tongues are razor-sharp and ripe with judgment and a well- 
concealed envy, the latter of which is the reason why so many of 
them easily insinuate themselves into the lives of their rice-fed 
sons working at the grind here, why they're either unheard or so 
easily forgiven when they say "we" instead of "they" and say 
things like "We're ahead by a field goal" or "We beat the hell 
out of them" when success comes like it does, and things like 
"Well, they played a hell of a good game, I'll say that much" 
and "They did their best" and "They just weren't ready for it" 
when the backhand of fate comes swiftly for your reddened 
cheek. 



It's best to say that most of them play for themselves, which 
is probably true anyway, at least with regards to the ones who 
spend equal amounts of time tearing up the field as they do 
warming the bench, the majority who are already looking 
forward to staying home after high school, to working for a 
living in the place they grew up, attending a good school and 
majoring in business or engineering, to getting painted up and 
waving large spongy pointed fingers and shouting "We're #1 !" 
with the same self-inclusion of their good old dads. These are 
the players for whom the game is not entirely The Point. They 
might play for the delight of their fathers, though they would 
never know it. Love of football is said to be hereditary. Most 
obvious of all, none of them play for the school, which, except 
for the game and the girls, they otherwise hate for what it is: 
a pointless interruption which they must shamelessly ford 
in order to get to the rest of their lives, and Lord knows it's 
a long four years and nothing ever happens in this town, but 
here now, take this here ball and run with it, kick a field goal, 
throw it sixty yards and never let the other team get within 
sight of it, this is what they're told, specifically regarding that 
precious pigskin, but of course it all bears an unconscious 
resemblance to everything else. 



77 







^a/^at^ 






Sherri Sharpe 



The winter wind blew hard and tore away the last leaves 
from the oaks and maples. They swirled and scattered across 
the barren field and against the weathered barn. Field mice and 
small squirrels scurried across the field with nuts, berries and 
grain to hoard away before the storm came. Yes, a storm would 
be here soon. The animals knew. The trees knew. The wind 
knew. 

The view across the field toward the Big Woods was a 
dismal sight. Everything was drab and cold. The crops had 
been harvested and mowed down leaving only withered 
brown stubble in the flattened rows. The bam was a worn out 
gray .. .and it leaned slightly to the right, giving it a tired and 
neglected look. A once bright blue flag, now faded to a dull 
and ragged darker shade of gray than the bam, flapped from 
atop its battered roof. The wood rail fence was in sad repair 
and appeared so frail that one more strong gust of wind might 
topple the few standing posts. 

But there, midway of the fence row stood a defiant glimpse 
of color - a young, strong cedar tree about six feet tall. With 
no other trees nearby to compete for sunlight, the cedar was 
full and perfectly shaped. It was a lonely tree. Especially 
during winter. During the spring, summer and fall there were 
people about, plowing, planting and harvesting crops. The 
crops themselves were companions; tinkling with laughter- 
like sounds as the spring rains bounced off of the broad green 
leaves, whispering in the late summer breezes, and rattling as 
the autumn wind shuttered the dry stalks and leaves. But winter 






was a quiet, lonely time for a single tree so far from the Big 
Woods. 

There was no reason to be happy for the lonely cedar tree. If 
only he could somehow move closer to the Big Woods. Just a 
little bit closer so he could hear the sound of the birds chirping 
in the trees, the small animals chattering as they burrowed and 
nested, the deer as they snorted and pawed. Oh, occasionally 
a bird would Ught in his branches to survey the barren field in 
search of an overlooked seed or kernel. And sometime a rabbit 
might hop by and pause to sniff in hopes of detecting a forgotten 
carrot or turnip. But mostly he was alone, looking across at the 
Big Woods and wanting to be a part of the large family of trees. 

The lonely cedar was also embarrassed. Here he was, just 
sticking out in the middle of the fence row in the middle of a 
field. It seemed as if the Big Woods were staring at him. He 
couldn't help it if he was just standing there, doing nothing. 
He would love to shelter small animals and birds from the cold 
winter wind. The cold didn't bother him, nor the wind and rain. 
He would love to do something to make his fellow trees proud 
of him— even if they were way over there. Why do they keep 
staring? 

The cold, dreary day slowly turned to night and the lonely 
cedar just stood there. The wind whipped and howled and the 
lonely cedar just stood there. Icy spray lashed against the bam, 
the fence and the cedar. But he just stood there, in the dark, in the 
storm, feeling alone and separated from all of his kind. 

Then, the storm was over and replaced by a light, almost 
happy, soft pattering. The cedar was soothed by the gentle 
caressing of the snowflakes. Too bad it was still dark. He had 
only seen snow once before when he was just a seedling. Best he 
could remember it tended to melt rather quickly, but he had liked 
the way it looked as it fell from the sky. It had made him happy. 

The cedar reveled in the delicate touch of the snow. He 
stretched his branches as wide open as he could to savor every 



minute of this bliss. And since it was dark, the trees in the Big 
Woods couldn't see him. He could enjoy the snow in the darkness 
with complete abandon. 

The snow stopped as the light gray of dawn broke into a 
glorious, sunny new day. The brightness of the sun sparkled and 
gleamed off of every snowflake and ice crystal. The field, bam 
and fence were transformed into a winter wonderland. The cedar 
tree looked at the beauty surrounding him. Even the Big Woods 
had a frosting of white on the top branches of the tall trees. 
Around the edge of the Big Woods were snowdrifts. Animals, big 
and small, were venturing out of the woods and crunching across 
the snow. Three young raccoons were rolling and tumbling in a 
drift near the end of the fence row. 

Suddenly the cedar tree felt the intense glare of the trees 
of the Big Woods. The animals all stopped in their tracks and 
were staring at him, too. Timidly, the cedar looked down at his 
branches. He was nearly blinded by his own radiance. The snow 
that he had so eagerly embraced in the night draped him like a 
sequined robe. The sun shone on him like a spotlight. He looked 
again to the Big Woods and this time he saw awe, wonder, and 
acceptance. He was beautiful. 






Tammy Roton 



October makes her appearance in Louisiana with usual 
uncertainty. Much like the swelling of a creek— when the 
rains come, summer and autumn meander through the terrain 
together. In this place, it is hard to see where one ends and 
the other begins. 

One such night, I met a woman I will never forget. Her 
name was Clairee and she was being admitted to ICU 
room thirteen for treatment of pain and anemia— no rooms 
available on Oncology this night. With a history of lung 
cancer, its treatment was taking its toll on her. She was so 
fragile, and I so green... Clairee could tell. 

In thick Creole she said, "Get them gloves 'n mask on, 
girl. My white count too low. You gonna make me sicker 
than I is." 

Red-faced, I replied, "Yes, Ma'am." 

Heartily, she laughed. 

I could see beyond the beefy mounds that once held her 
teeth— past the thick white crust which slurred her speech— 
until, I thought I could somehow see her soul. I wondered 
what gave her such voracity for life. 

I imagined that her skin was once smooth like river silt. 
But, as a reptile whose glory had long since faded, Clairee's 
shell was thick and taut. Her amber eyes still sparkled 
though. She adjusted her bald head's colorful scarf which she 
called her "do rag." I asked, "Why a do rag?" 

She laughed again... "Else you gonna do with a head that 
ain't got no hair?" 



8 



We both laughed! 

I started the IV fluids and morphine. Her breathing eased. 

No need to teach Clairee about PC A morphine. Remaining 

true to her former knowledge- 
She instructed, "Give me that pain button, girl. The dose 

too low — I gone tell you." 

I handed her the PC A control. 

Paperwork done, Clairee 's immediate problems were under 
control. The oxygen eased her distress even more. Soon the 
blood products would be ready and that would help too. As 
the morphine traveled her veins, spilling its therapy into her 
brain, the dam broke— and Clairee talked. 

She talked about fear. She talked about family. She said 
she had adopted her brother's children when she was twenty- 
five. She had remained a single parent until she turned thirty- 
five. Then she met and married Claude Benoit. She said if 
not for her "babies" she would still be single because she met 
Claude at a school function for her children, Ellen and Rob. 

The repetitive beeping made by the PC A control — my 
signal of her need. 

And she mumbled, "I ain't scared of dyin' . Done looked 
down that road— jes' don't wanna be alone when I go." 

Clairee talked about a love and faith that had seen her 
family through hard times. 

Half laughing, half wincing, she spat, "Man, them babies 
like to drove Claude crazy them first few months. All cramped 
up in that lil' ol' house. What'n big enough to get alone 
nowheres. But, my babies come to love Claude jes' like me. 
Two years later we gits the news, 'Oui' gots cancer. 

It was hard to tell if Clairee was laughing or crying. Or, 
was she laughing to keep from crying? 



At first I thought she was giving possession of the cancer to 
her entire family. 

She continued, 'Them babies calls me Oui." 

"I asked, "Why do they call you Oui?" 

She drifted off into a prayer that only the Spirit of God could 
understand. 

Lowly, she moaned, "Oh Lord, please don't make me wear 
these shoes by myself." 

I woke her as I was leaving the room. She asked for Claude 
and her "babies." I reassured her and went for her family. She 
drifted off again. 

Just as they were suiting up to enter her room, Clairee's heart 
rhythm changed and the cardiac monitor alarmed. A code was 
called to ICU thirteen. As the code team arrived, CPR was 
started— her family in the hall— watching. 

As the crash cart was rolled into Clairee's room, someone 
shouted, "No pulse!" 

The next moment, the defibrillator was attached to her 
clammy chest and she was shocked. 

And the river quieted, like God had cupped His hands for a 
drink. Her family looked on in horror as she was shocked again, 
and again. 

The paddles on her bare skin sounded like a branch crashing 
to the ground. 

THUD! 

Someone yelled out, "Still no pulse, continue CPR!" 

Sounds of chest compressions and bag-mask ventilation 
rubbed their way into the atmosphere. 

And her family heard it all. In the light from the open door, 
we could see Claude and the kids— overcome. Not being much 
help in the room, I went to Clairee's family. They pleaded. 



83 



"Don't let her die! Don't let her die! She don't know we 
here!" 

Someone closed the door and I felt small as I led 
Clairee's family to the consultation room. As they entered 
the room they began to tell me of Clairee's decision about 
her death. 

She did not want to suffer, but wanted her family to be 
present when she passed. She had not been alone since the 
three of them had come into her life. We were interrupted 
by one of the code-team members who said they were 
successful— for now. 

Entering Clairee's room, the musk was thick and the 
machinery loud. They could only watch and listen. Like 
stones skipping on water, the ventilator sounded its intrusive 
tune. The cardiac monitor chimed in, as Clairee's heart 
fought that other rhythm. The PC A was still on. Now 
disconnected, it beeped in time to the techno-rhythm of ICU 
thirteen. I explained the equipment and told them it was 
okay to touch her. 

Claude took Clairee's hand in his. Skin touched skin. 
Ellen kissed her Mama's cheek and wiped away the tears 
that flowed from her own eyes. Rob stood at a distance, 
head in his hands. 

Ellen spoke softly, "Everyone is here now, Oui, you can 
go." 

They were all there— sharing, weeping, loving. I listened 
as they shared their memories of Oui. 

I joined in the homage to this one who was dressed for 
death and being held from the place she did not want to 
enter alone. 

Again, I asked, "Why do you call her Oui?" 

Ellen answered, "Our Mama died when my brother and I 
were little. Our Daddy didn't want us. He told us we would 



be living with our Aunt Clairee. She became our Mama and 
our Daddy." 

I nodded. She had said "yes" to those who needed her and 
they kept her from being alone. 

As they shared, Clairee 's brow seemed to ask a question. 
She opened her eyes as if to say, "They're all here," and 
closed them again. 

After their tribute to Oui, her family spoke to the 
Intensivist. All agreed, the time had come. 

On a rainy night in October, I disconnected the ventilator 
from the patient in ICU thirteen. And the water had washed 
away the boundaries, until all that was left were sweet 
memories of Oui. 



85 







Si Tucker 



Author's note: The following takes place in an apartment 
or dormitory y it's impossible to tell which. Just so there's no 
confusion, there are at least six people in this room— likely 
more— pretty much all talking at once. Those named here are 
Noam, Paul, Chris, Harp, Bernard and Marcus. None of them 
are vegetarians for life. All of these young men speak at least 
once in this selection, but it's unclear whether or not someone 
who as yet remains unnamed says anything here. I wouldn 't 
worry about it. Also, the author hopes it's clear that Chris is 
showing Paul how to play a video game. 

"All the girls keep talking about Sam." 

"Why do they keep talking about him?" 

"Because Samsung." 

"Ha, ha. That's funny." 

"You guys are a bunch of dildos." 

"Well, I guess part of me is like a dildo." 

"How long did it take you to think of that Samsung joke, 
Noam?" 

"Oh, I was in bed by eleven." 

"Okay, so like I was saying, the trick is to put your pants 
on and then your shoes. If you put your shoes on before your 
pants, you'll be in a world of shit." 

"Say, Noam, that joke would work better if your name was 
Sam." 



"Yeah, I know." 

"I think I get it, Chris." 

"I'm just saying. Anyhoo, so you put the pants on and then 
the shoes. Socks first though. Yeah, you get that. I think 
there's a cheat so you can skip that. But that involves a whole 
lot of other stuff. You've got to get the guy to buy sandals or 
something or other. To do that, you have to go to the store 
and see if they're on sale and really, you don't want to have to 
worry about that until you're on a higher level, like, say, Law- 
Abiding Citizen or so. Don't worry about that while you're a 
Student." 

"Can't my guy just not wear shoes?" 

"Yeah, but I don't recommend that. Or at least not for a 
while. As a Young Adult you'll encounter gravel and junk in 
the road that you can't see, so, you know. Don't get used to 
that. Okay, so." 

"Hey, pass it, Bernard." 

"Alright, already. Here, tell me when." 

"Okay, okay. Jesus." 

"Harp, are you actually doing homework right now?" 

"It's not much, it's just a little busy work. Totally not a big 
deal if I don't even do it." 

"So, why are you doing it then?" 



"Haro?" 

M. 

"Hmm?" 

"I said so why are you doing it then?" 

"Oh, it's nothing. Not a big deal at all. Really. I could 
really just not even do this." 



87 



"Okay, so. Harp, I am really not understanding yum logic 
at all right now." 

'Tm sorry?'' 

"Just saying/" 

"Alright, so you just do that there then, Paul. Give it a 
shot. Puttin' on the pants. One leg at a time now." 

"I got it, I got it. Quit telling me." 

"Hold the button and gently push on the joystick, push 
forward. Gently. Gently, Paul!" 

"I got it, damn it! I — arrgh— damn it!" 

"Paul. Whoa, Paul. Paul, Paul!" 

"I just-" 

"Whoa, there, Paul. No need for that. That s an expensive 
controller." 

"What the hell, man. What could she see in that guy?" 

"Whoa, wait, is this about the game or about Nicole?" 

"Yeah, Chris, it's about the game." 

"Well, to get a girlfriend, you have to find the key to your 
house so you can lock the door and — " 

"Jesus, Chris, I'm talking about Nicole!" 

"Oh. Would you like me to tell you what you said the first 
time, hombre?" 

"Pass it back, Marcus. You didn't even pay for most of 
that." 

"What's it on anyway. Harp? Jesus, I have no idea why 
I asked that. It's kind of like walking right the hell into a 
mousetrap, like, one for humans." 

"A human-trap." 

"Yes, a human-trap." 

"Well, if you really want to know, I'm just reviewing some 



M 



notes from this lecture given the other day by Dr. Cornelius 
Comblower who's this retired professor originally from 
somewhere upstate and lives alone since his wife died and now 
he's single and he spends his days writing for fun and watching 
birds and he doesn't even own a TV set and anyway the lecture 
was on—" 

''You know what, Harp, I've kind of forgotten what my 
original question was. So, you know. And Christ, Harp, use 
a comma every once in a while, huh? Hey, Bernard, can 1 get 
some of that?" 

''AH yours." 

"Alrighty then. You know what, I'm sorry. Harp, what was 
it on, the Comblower birdwatcher guy's lecture? Got to admit, 
sounds a like an eccentric old fart." 

"What could she possibly see in that guy? That big old 
lug. I ought to sock him, just once. Sock him in the goddamn 
face ." 

"Well, Samsung, for one." 

"Ha— quit it, Noam— ha, ha. How would you know, right, 
Noam? Ha, ha. I mean, yeah, what could she see in that guy. 
right? I mean, Christ, he's just got the second most wins in the 
conference as a quarterback and he's got everything going for 
him with scouts and he's All-American and I don't know, Paul, 
I mean, sure, he's kind of dull. Samsung, ha." 

"Did you hear what he just said? 'Sock him in the goddamn 
face,' he said. Ha! Sounded just like William Buckley, God 
rest the poor bastard's soul. Just like William Buckley circa 
1968." 

"Do it again, Paul. Your William Buckley impression, I 
missed it, do it again." 

"I don't think it was an impression, Harp." 

"Hey, wait, I can do it." 



1 



1 



"Paul, you're off the hook. You're up, Noam." 

"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll 
sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered!" 

"Hahahahahahahahahahahaha ! " 

"Hahahahahahahahahahahaha ! " 

"Hahahahahaha!" 

"Just like him! Just like him!" 

"Ha, hahahahahaha, hahaha!" 

"I don't appreciate the joining-in on your part, Chris." 

"That was the funniest thing since Samsung." 

"Oh, ahem— whew! Ah, now. Does Buckley say 'will' or 
'shall'? Oh, I forget." 




History Class 

By Jillian Corder 



du^tO/^^, /99S 





Si Tucker 



"Listen, kids. Your mother and I love you both very much. 
Okay? We always have and we always will. It's just that, 
sometimes, well, [prolonged sigh] well, sometimes when a man 
and a woman get married, well after several years things start 
to happen and they figure out they're not, um, well, look, in 
most cases, in some cases they still love each other, they just 
need some time apart. Um, in some cases. Sometimes they 
realize, oh, they think they're not in love anymore. Now they 
love their children. No one can ever take that away. But they, 
they don't love each other anymore. Sometimes it's not really 
that. Sometimes they just need some time apart and then they 
get back together. They realize that they only thought they 
weren't in love anymore but it turns out they really were and, I 
don't know, they needed some time apart to sort of realize that. 
Okay. So there's that. It just sort of happens that your mother 
and I need some time apart. We just need some time apart, 
that's all. Just a little time apart. After being married so long, 
you can see how that would be, um, realistic. Um [prolonged 
sigh], perhaps that wasn't the right word. Okay. I'm sorry. 
But you understand though, right? So what's going to happen, 
okay, is your mother is keeping the house, she'll stay here and 
I'm moving out. For just a little while, you know. See what 
happens. I have an apartment just a little way, just a little way 
up the slope. Um, it's a nice place and I, um, well, your mother 
and I have worked out sort of like a schedule so that we'll both 
get to see you guys equally. In equal amounts, I mean. Nate?" 

"So, you guys just need some time apart then and then you'll 
come back home." 



91 



'Tardon?" 

"You just have to move out for a little while and then you'll 
come back home, right? It's just some time for you guys to 
realize how much you miss each other and then you're coming 
back, am I right? Tell me if I'm missing something." 

"Well, little buddy, I really can't say." 

"What do you mean? You said that in most cases the parents 
get back together after they realize they were wrong, that they 
really do love each other." 

"Nate." 

"What." 

"Nate, they're separating." 

"What?" 

"Mom and Dad are splitting up. Remember, Tom's parents 
did this too." 

"No, aw, come on, you guys can't! You can't get a divorce!" 

"We're not getting a divorce yet." 

"Randy-!" 

"Uh, uh, we're not getting a divorce." 

"Oh, nice cover, Dad." 

"Greg,I-" 

"What the hell's going on. Mom?" 

"Greg, don't say that." 

"Why the hell not? I mean, Jesus Christ, why don't we have 
any say in this?" 

"You do have some say in this, Greg." 

"What?" 

"You guys'll be coming over every other weekend. You'll 



stay at your mother's during the week since it's closer to school 
and you'll come over every other weekend." 

"What kind of a choice is that? What kind of say do I get in 
that?" 

"Greg, calm down, sweetie." 

"Calm down? Why should I calm down?" 

"Greg, please, your brother." 

"Nate, I— but this is your fault! This is your fault!" 

"Randy, could you-?" 

"Yeah, that's a good idea. Excuse me, waiter, we'd like the 
check. And some Kleenex for my boy here." 



93 



^y^/e^e/^^^ i^/a^c/y 



r 




Christalyn Whitaker 



Sun beaming down with merciless heat. Stale air burdened 
with the must of dozens, for there are dozens being burdened 
in this stale air. Mules, bom of those partial to traveling on 
two feet, dispersed over the vast green, brown and yellow 
spotted land of sweet abundance. The majority of the herd 
all displayed a striking resemblance, yet one member of 
this particular owner would catch the eye of any onlooker. 
Her broad shoulders sat squarely atop her stout, yet steadily 
decreasing frame. She trotted in a lackadaisically majestic 
pace that served as intimidation toward any who attempted to 
buck towards her or her foals. 

Upon occasion, she would smuggle a bit of cane for her 
precious family, working but a few yards behind. Having 
always been successful at smuggling in times past, it was 
almost second nature for her to take the sweet stalks. Yet, 
this time, just as she reached to deposit her now sour stash, 
a hand grabbed her worn saddle. Jarring her senses, the 
touch made her too frightened and nervous to even conjure 
a way to steer her body in order to look upon the face of 
this mysterious contact. The unfortunate reality finally set 
in that she could not stand idly for eternity, no matter how 
much she did wish. So... she began to turn. The air thick with 
tension and heart- wrenching anticipation made it feel as if 
the world slowed its revolutions down to meet the pace of 
hers. When she finally made it 180 degrees, there to greet 
her was the angry face of her brander. He was blazing red, 
from being held over a fire for what seemed like a lifetime, 
made into the shape of the word ''ZEUS." She already knew 
the procedure, after having seen many of her team endure 



the same punishment; therefore, she proceeded to trot, just 
as she had before, yet this time with a little more pep. Pep 
to show that she feared nothing, pep to appear strong to her 
onlookers and, more important, her children. Yet, inside, she 
knew it was merely a facade, and many spectators knew, too. 
They would just never dare to voice it. 

With the overseer attached to her arm, her foals tried 
to reach for her, yet retreated quickly at the fear that they 
too, would be burned by the same brand their mother was 
preparing to endure. The mare and her brander came to 
a halt when they reached the stalls. The sternness on her 
square face said she was ready for any punishment on 
the way, so the brander did just that. With lasso tied tight 
about her wrists, dangling her body from the oak, a crack 
of Zeus' thunder was heard. The crack sounded to all in the 
proximity, yet the lightning-came in contact with only on^r^i^^^^^^ 
The constant shocks of the charge morphed her tough jWek^l^l^^^^B 
hooves into shallow pools of crimson flesh. She attempted to 
keep quiet, yet one muffled *'neigh" devised a way to escape 
from her thick throat. She tried to keep her composure, yet, 
the drops of salty anguish began rolling. 

Sun beaming down with merciless heat. Stale air 
burdened with the must of dozens, for dozens are being 
burdened by the stale air. Mules, still dispersed, now all look 
the same. All are marked with the brands of ownership and 
captivity. Zeus' thunder sent a shock wave through the herd. 
No longer thoughts of sweet dreams, just the taste of salty 
reality. 





Thomas Parrie 



I want to tell you about the bust of Louis St. Denis. It sits atop 
a large hill with its back against the mighty Cane River-Lake, a 
lake in the shape of a river. I grew up on that hill playing little 
kid games and later big kid games. That old bronze bust has seen 
my worst and my best. I've seen it shine like a new penny in the 
twilight of an August evening. I've seen it Jackson Pollocked 
with a bird shit medium. 

When I was a kid, I would slide down the hill behind the bust 
on a cardboard box and change the color of the knees of my 
jeans to a fine shade of green. Years later, I toasted the bust as I 
staggered from the pub across the road swishing and swashing 
down the red-bricked street. I've waited for someone there on 
that hill beside the bust of Louis St. Denis. Why, I've even pissed 
on its base hiding from cars when the public bathroom next to it 
was full. I've known that bust. I've known Louis's face. 

I once read that Louis St. Denis wanted to be a Spaniard so 
bad, he married a Spanish woman. When I was sliding down that 
hill, staining my clothes, I too was Spanish. 

I also know that Indian slaves were sold in markets across the 
Cane where today's Christmas festival and Fourth of July fire- 
works are launched. My father's people. 

I have, like so many others, passed in front of the bust's solid 
brown face and looked into its lifeless eyes. The bust of 
St. Denis wears beads during Mardi Gras. Countless sunsets and 
tropical storms pass by like the months and months of the 
oppressive heat of extended Natchitoches summers. 



I've known the bust of Louis St. Denis in all my lifetimes. 

I sit down the hill behind the bust along the banks of the 
Cane and see fishermen in their big floppy hats pull the tiniest 
brim out of its black still waters. Ask anyone and they'll tell you 
that this place is haunted by the ghost of an unknown Confeder- 
ate soldier who was shot on the same bricked street that sees 
five o'clock and lunchtime traffic. There is a plaque. It's placed 
on an iron gate that opens to a narrow alley. There are ghosts in 
there. When I was a kid, I saw a young boy in Confederate gray 
playing Dixie on a drum. 

Now I see the bust of Louis St. Denis staring out into another 
world—a world with cell phones and traffic rolling slowly past 
like the ants who build metropolises in the cracks of the curbs 
that bank the steep hill. That same hill I used to know so well. 
The river never moves and yet the lake in it winds down 
Natchitoches in serpentine sprawl. The bank across the water 
permanently displays the next year's Christmas festival lighted 
designs. Beyond Santa Claus and eight tiny reindeer, I hear 
ghosts rattle their chains. 

Perhaps that is why the bust of Louis St. Denis turns his back 
toward the Cane. 



99 




/ 




Thomas Parrie 



I remember going crazy after I quit smoking. I can, at best, recall 
many sleepless nights and irritability that would land a sane person 
in jail. I remember my head constantly hurting and my jaw grow- 
ing tight, tighter, tightest at the thought of the raspy blow of smoke 
into my lungs. I distinctly remember reading online at one of those 
quitting smoking encouragement sites that the mind and body actu- 
ally mourn the loss of cigarettes as one would mourn a dead relative, 
friend, or pet. I grieved day and night. And at night is where I learned 
that food was a handy distraction. 

As the weeks passed and I progressed more and more from a 
smoker to a nonsmoker, I couldn't help but feel a bit like Gregor 
Samsa becoming an insect, though his change was overnight. I was 
getting too big for my chrysalis. While I was busy in my bedlam, fat 
was being stored in my cells to the point where I needed to change 
my diet as well. So I started walking. 

I walked everywhere and at any time. If the mood or withdrawal 
hit too hard, I was running. I was out on the road watching my 
shadow move with me and the horizon bounce in front. I can almost 
pinpoint the day I came upon the squirrel. 

It was mid- August in Louisiana, and with that sort of heat, the 
streets begin to melt and give a little. I remember that it was on Wat- 
son Street where the road dips from a slight incline and gently hugs 
the shoulder in an even slighter curve. And it was in the morning. 

The squirrel had been recently run over and was lying on its back. 
Its legs splayed open like a midair jumper from power line to tree 
limb. It had a golden brown belly and a salt and pepper back that 
ended in a bristly black cattail. I ran by and swerved around it, staring 
at the mangled corpse. The head had been turned almost completely 
around from the tire or tires that had done it in. Its tongue protruded 



beyond its small beaver-like teeth. The blood had turned maroon and 
had already congealed, creating a stain around its head like a rodent 
halo. I ran past. 

That next week, while on my scheduled run down Watson, I came 
upon the dead squirrel. It was still on its back, and its tail still blew 
in the hot breeze. I caught its death scent before I got close enough 
to see it. I had been running at a fair pace, gasping by the time I ap- 
proached the stench, so it shocked me when the scent snuck into my 
mouth and nose. I could smell the rotting corpse and taste the putrid 
air. Flies had covered the head and face in a black haze, and I could 
see undulations beneath the belly fur. I could see how small and sharp 
the squirrel's claws had been and looked into the trees lining the 
neighborhood. I looked up into the canopy and heard the tack-tacking 
of claws crisscrossing the tree limbs over the road. I ran past. 

A week later, I was rounding that same gentle curve as a speed- 
ing truck passed me. Its red bumper came inches from brushing my 
shoulder, and while I didn't yell at the careless driver, I gave it a sun- 
squinted dirty look. I remember thinking that the driver was an ass for 
speeding in a residential neighborhood when I came upon the corpse. 
Its body had become twisted and blackened; entrails were spread like 
freshly splattered tar. The flies had all but abandoned the squirrel as 
only a few darted in and out of the corpse. I could see that a paw was 
missing. The eyes bulged like two marbles. The tongue had grown 
longer tasting the irreverent blacktop. I remembered that, until that 
moment, I had been obsessed with either nicotine or losing weight, 
and right then, I feh saddened by the sight of the dead squirrel. It was 
torn to pieces and badly decomposed but I wanted to pick it up and 
bury it. I thought I might cradle it in my arms like a mother and wail. 
I would squeeze it, and its little head would hang from a tendon into 
the curve of my elbow. I would chase away the flies. But I didn't. I 
did nothing of the sort. I caught my breath and continued to run. 

It was the third week and I was surprised to see the body still there 
in the road but askew from where it had been killed. It was another 
hot day and the smell had become worse. I could smell it from down 
the road where Watson intersects with East 7th Street. I heard the 
drop of a large walnut as a fat grey squirrel bounced across the road 
and nearly flew onto the low lying branch of an oak tree. I remember 



101 



hearing the snips and knocks of a woodpecker high above. I stepped 
into the asphalt gutter to allow a passing car to swerve away from 
another car parked on the side of the road in front of a house. For a 
moment, the blue clouds of exhaust and the heated scent of the car's 
engine superimposed the smell of rotting carcass. The squirrel was 
nearly torn in half and I could see the beginnings of pale pallid bone. 
The small intact spine reminded me of the filigree on china. The front 
right leg had been mashed into the hardtop like tar and gravel filling 
for a pothole. There was no wind that day. I ran on. 

The paper boomerang is made to be flown indoors. I read that even 
the faintest wind could blow it off course. And if left out in the rain 
like so many children's toys, the paper boomerang will come apart, 
first at the folds, and then melt into a gooey pulp. I remember running 
that day and thinking about my squirrel friend. I thought about how 
the squirrel was like the boomerang because it rotted like paper in a 
rainstorm, only its rain was the heat~the heat that hung around my 
neck like a chain. I had lost a couple of pounds in those first weeks 
and was happy about that, though I still wanted to smoke more than 
anything. I remember asking someone who had fifteen years of non- 
smoking under his belt if it got any easier. He said yes, that it did get 
easier but it never went away. He said that the longing for nicotine 
was like a tide that would always come in, that it always came fast, 
hard, and continuous for the first few months but would then recede. 
The hunger would always come back in waves but each wave would 
be less violent than the last. He said he never got over it. He said he 
could light up today and it would be just like he never quit. I went out 
that next week for my scheduled run past the squirrel. I had grown to 
expect the smell of death. I had become accustomed to the lingering 
corpse of a tree squirrel, and like the quiet observer, I watched and 
documented the breakdown of the animal. I even spoke to it like a 
passing acquaintance, for somehow, I had hoped against hope that it 
would come back to life and scamper off into the hole of some maple 
tree. I wanted our boomerang relationship to last. Boomerang because 
I would always come back to it and everything would be in order. 
Things would make sense. Starvation, diseases, war, the absence of 
God, could all be excused. 



One hundred years ago, people posed for pictures with the recently 
deceased. Mothers and fathers and babies were dressed and fixed to 
look alive, when in fact, they were as ripe as spoiled milk. What I re- 
member about that particular squirrel gave me an ill-at-ease comfort 
like a one night stand or a cheap drug. There is that cliche that death 
teaches about life. I found it in a little grey tree squirrel. 

I remember running down the street at around noon during the 
hottest part of the day. I slowed around the hidden curve and stepped 
onto the crisp brown-yellow of a neighbor's grass, avoiding a passing 
car. I could see ahead the gaseous blur of heat on the road. I dodged 
potholes. I remember that dogs were barking, and I thought it funny 
that I had never really noticed them before. That's when I realized 
that the smell was gone. 

The putrid stench of the squirrel corpse was gone and had been 
replaced by the scent of magnolia, rose, and foliage. The squirrels 
darted in the trees above me. They nibbled seeds and nuts in yards. 
I saw a man washing his truck. The rims of the truck reflected the 
sunlight in blinding white shots. I came upon where the corpse had 
lain for an entire month. There was nothing there except a black stain. 
I looked in the large drainage ditch a few yards ahead, but there was 
nothing there. I ran on, watching the horizon and letting my mind reel 
back into random thoughts and future plans that seem to occupy most 
of my "exercise thoughts." 

There have been more carcasses, but I don't even seem to notice 
or care now. I lost more weight and then gained it back and then lost 
it again. That summer was unusually hot and crazy things happened. 
And I'm glad to say that to this day, I haven't smoked a single ciga- 
rette. 



103 



Kristina McBride 




The sun peeked out through the living room curtains as I took 
a moment to settle myself in. I tucked my feet under my legs for 
warmth and stretched my dad's T-shirt across my knees, crack- 
ing the white lettering of the Jack Daniel's lo^o. I didn't watch 
cartoons, preferring the live action singing and dancing shows 
on Disney. After slurping down the sweet, pinkish purple milk 
left swirling in my cereal bowl, I would turn off the TV and sit in 
the sun-soaked warmth of the carpet in front of the living room 
windows. 

As a child, there was no day or time more sacred than 
Saturday morning. The entire week would only matter in the 
sense that Monday led to Wednesday which inevitably led to Fri- 
day, the eve of Saturday morning. Like all holy days, those morn- 
ings began with ritual. In the early hours, before the rest of the 
house, or even the sun, had begun their day, I climbed the kitchen 
cabinets to reach for a giant cereal bowl. Sometimes I had the 
luck to be the first to the cereal box, shoving my hand to the bot- 
tom to retrieve the coveted prize. I'd fill my bowl to the top with 
rainbow-speckled Lucky Charms, leaving little room for milk, the 
cereal cascading over the side of the bowl. I made sure to save 
the tiny marshmallow clovers and horseshoes, letting the small 
oat pebbles fall to the floor, only to be crunched into crumbs later 
that afternoon. 

My mother taught me that cereal was a meal appropriate for 
any time of day, but I loved it best for breakfast. Not only was it 
the simplest of meals to prepare, it was also the sweetest, espe- 
cially in our house. Sugar Smacks was my mom's favorite; that 
sugar-coated corn puff cereal in the red box with the frog in a 
baseball cap on the front. The bag inside was a shiny gold, hint- 
ing at the treasure inside. The cereals in our house never required 



that extra spoon of sugar like those at my grandmother's. Perhaps 
my mother stocked such goodies as a kind of rebeUion left over 
from her childhood. I remember her telling me once that she used 
to have cereal for dinner, leaning over the kitchen sink while every- 
one else sat at the dining room table. 

As I got older, cereal didn't need milk. I would fill plastic sand- 
wich bags with Honey Nut Cheerios or Corn Pops, taking them to 
school for a mid-morning snack. I would grab a handful before 
sitting down at the kitchen table to do homework. Now cereal has 
no time or reason, but I love it best as a midnight snack. Padding 
to the kitchen, the soft yellow stove light my only companion, like 
a thief; as if this simple act of snacking were a revolt against the 
normalcy of the rest of the world. This meal calls for a giant plastic 
cup. Sometimes I even leave out the spoon, gulping down the cold 
milk and chewing on the mini marshmallows, like little sugar rafts. 







When I was about six, my mom dated a tobacco farmer. We 
often spent weekends at his parents' house riding four-wheelers 
through cow pastures and down steep hillsides to rocky creek 
beds. On those trips to his parents' house, my sister and I would 
grasp the sides of the bed of Randal's big white truck, our hair 
whipping at our faces with stinging delight. Those long drives on 
the undulating back roads highjacked my nostrils with the dank 
muskiness of cow dung, the sweetness of fresh-cut hay, and the 
earthiness of moist soil under recently fallen leaves. But the smell 
that brings me back to my childhood drifted from the smoke that 
lingered like early morning fog low on the hill valleys. It's the 
smell of curing tobacco, the smell that permeates from the cloth 
packaging of fresh smoked sausage. 

The tobacco grown in these northern regions of middle Tennes- 
see, just north of Nashville, is used to make chewing tobacco and 
snuff. The snuff that rotted the breath of the old man who lived 
across the street from us. As he walked to the mailbox with his 
cheeks puffed out like an old gray chipmunk, dark brown stains 
dripped down his white undershirt, reminding me of the foulness 
of his breath and the sweetness of curing tobacco at the same time, 
My mind had yet to make the connection between those moist 
bits of burnt leaves that filled packs of Redman to the large green 
plants that reminded me of overgrown cabbage. 

I finally got a closer connection to the leafy tobacco plants 
when the tractor that set the baby saplings into their pre-dug holes 
broke one summer, and my sister and I helped place the small 
leafy plants into the perfectly formed holes about the size of my 
small hand. It was tedious work that left moon-shaped dirt circles 
in the tips of niv nn«jLTii;iils AfltM- hiv;ikiiio no fhe dirt cubes that 



imprisoned the fragile roots, I placed each plant into its tiny home. 
Within weeks the tips of the giant leaves nearly reached the top of my 
head and began to droop, tired from holding their own weight, and 
they were ready to harvest. 

All of the care and love given to these plants seems to end with 
harvest. Instead of taking care not to break the delicate plants, the 
harvester must take care not to lose a finger. This is dangerous work, 
done by hand with giant sickles that chop the tall, yellowing leaves at 
their base. My mother, standing just over five feet tall, was barely vis- 
ible over the bundles she carried, like a child balancing an overloaded 
basket of laundry. The tobacco had no smell yet, except that of earth. 
Each bunch of plant leaves was to be tied to wooden stakes with twine 
and strapped to long beams of wood. I only knew what happened next 
by the smoke seeping from the cracks of wooden bams with rusted tin 
roofs. To those who didn't know any better, these barns were burning, 
smoldering from the inside out. 

Here, dozens of tobacco leaf bundles hung from the rafters like 
giant, lifeless bats. They dangled over smoldering aromatic hardwood 
to be cured, smoked to the same dark brown my mother's skin had 
turned from her summer in the fields. Tobacco gets its smooth flavor 
not from the plant but the smell of backyard bonfires, of crisp fall 
nights and decomposing leaves in morning dew. This is where my 
love affair with tobacco ends, in its pure form, dehydrated and wilted, 
like giant dried flower petals. I want to take the leaves, shrink them 
to a manageable size, crumple them and put them in a locket so I can 
smell them whenever I want to go back to the hills of middle Tennes- 
see. 



07 




Thomas Parrie 



1 994 was the year for teenage purgatory. While the country tuned 
into Nancy Kerrigan's attacked knee, O J. Simpson's arrest for a double 
murder, and the league-wide baseball strike, I had turned my cap 
backwards and hit the summer heat with a belly-buster. I was 14 and 
(in teenager time) approaching middle age. It was June when we met 
Burt. Even today, memory reels play when I look out at the woods from 
the highway. They roll in snippets but I guess that's enough to help me 
remember him. Sometimes, I stare too long out the window from the car 
and am snapped out of my trance by the sudden jerking of the rumble 
strips on the shoulder of the road. And yeah, I can admit that sometimes 
I envision him standing in front of the car as I drive around a curve. Of 
course, he disappears before I hit him. No, most times, I watch the woods 
as if I'm searching for a trail; a shallow path leading back to that summer 
and back to Burt. 

I can remember Chris, my best friend at the time, rushing me down the 
road. His excitement was as catching as the flu. I began to grow more and 
more panicky even though I had no idea what was going on. He led me 
down the shoulder of the highway. We were supposed to be at the local 
bowling alley slipping quarters into the arcade machines and pool tables. 
Instead, we were in hot pursuit of some mystery that existed down the 
road from the alley. I remember my shoes making thick clopping sounds 
as they hit the hot top. Chris was fast; I was almost at full gallop. I nearly 
had to hold his hand, and for a teenage boy. that was out of the question. 
But. if I wanted to see what all of the excitement was about. I had to 
consider the possibility. We stopped in front of the tree line. There was a 
ditch separating the road from the woods. It was a moat daring us to cross. 

"What are we doing out here?" I asked. 



"Shh, come on and be quiet." He stepped into the ditch. 

"What is it? Did you see something boss?" 

"Dude, this is so boss, you'll shit yourself." 

I stepped into the ditch and my shoe soles sank into the mud. 

"Shit," I said. 

"Be quiet," he said, waving his hand at me from the tree line. 

The trees grew along the highway in neat rows resembling the outside 
perimeter of a com field. I heard a car coming and stepped into the woods. 
Chris was already almost invisible. He had walked so far ahead that I had 
to trot to catch up. Once I did, he put up his hand like a crossing guard. 
He didn't look at me when he did. He stared straight ahead into a clearing. 
He reminded me of a hound picking up the scent of a wounded rabbit. I 
stepped closer and looked over his shoulder. He pointed the way. 

"You see over there?" 

"Where?" 

"Over there next to that oak." 

I pulled a small pine branch down and out of my face. I pushed 
forward and peered through, trying to adjust to the sudden shade of the 
woods. I saw nothing but forest. I careened to face Chris, but he didn't 
notice. He stared out into the thick woods, waiting for me to return his 
excitement. 

"What am I looking for?" 

"Just look, man," he said. 

"I did and I don't see anything." 

"Look again." 

I stepped a few feet closer and Chris stuck out his arm as if to stop 
me even though I was now further away from him and much closer 
to whatever it was he wanted me to see. I inched. A crow cawed and I 
almost lost my balance. I squatted and, pulling more branches down, took 
another, much deeper look. I breathed deep. After my eyes had finally 
adjusted and had acquired a decent viewpoint, I spotted it. 



109 



It was covered in branches and leaves and juxtaposed against the trees 
looking like a small hill. Seeing it, I knew exactly what it was and why 
I hadn't seen it right out. It was a dome-shaped tent with a camouflage 
pattern. We loved to camp and knew pretty much everyone who camped 
in the area. This one was different because we had never seen a tent like 
this one before. This one was strange. It was strange enough to drag us 
out to the woods when we should have been hitting pool balls into their 
respective pockets. 

"So this is it?" I looked back at Chris. 

"Yeah, man, ain't it the coolest thing?" He walked closer. 

"I thought you had found an alien ... or a dead coyote, or some pom, 
but a tent?" 

"Not just a tent," he said. 

"What? Can we take it?" 

"Hell no, I think somebody lives here." 

We walked closer to the tent, feeding our curiosities as though some 
reflex had kicked in. We neared the back of it before an overwhelming 
sense of danger rushed upon us. We shared a look that was as mutual a 
look as anyone could muster. I peered over and saw a man sitting cross- 
legged reading a book. His back was to me. The twin cords of his yellow 
Walkman streamed out of his headphones, distracting him. Suddenly, his 
legs moved and extended out. Turning around, we ran full blast through 
the thicket, nearly getting beheaded by a low limb, and jumped the ditch. 
We ran down the highway hoping against hope that he hadn't spotted us 
with (what our imaginations had conjured) the scope of a deer rifle. 

"Holy shit!" Chris said between breaths. 

We stood outside of the alley with our hands on our knees, our chests 
heaving. 

"What . . . was that? I mean who is he?" I asked. 

"I don't know, man, but he ain't no regular camper." 

"What makes you think that?" 

"Did you see all the stuff he had with him? There was at least two 
weeks worth of gear out there. Besides, I don't think a regular camper 
would lay tent that close to the road or cover up like that." 



"You got a point," I said, rising up. I took off my cap, wiped my brow, 
and put it back on. 

"What do you suppose he's doing out there?" Chris asked. 

"Could be a contract working for Con- Agra, or something." 

"A chicken man? Maybe." 

"I'm sure he has money. Con-Agra pays good enough," I said. 

"Then why is he living in a tent?" 

"He may have a house somewhere else," Chris said. 

"You think he's a poacher?" I asked. 

We stared back down the road. A feeling came over me like being about 
to fall out. 

"Con- Agra worker?" 

"Maybe." 

"You want a Coke?" I asked. 

"Root beer," he said. 

We walked back into the bowling alley and bought our Coke and root 
beer. There were a few pool games played; I won one, Chris won two. My 
mom and her boyfriend, Billy, weren't due to pick us up for another few 
hours and by that time, it would already be dark. But even the lingering 
daytime hours of summer couldn't take our minds off of the mysterious 
man in the woods. For supper, we ate cheese fries with more Coke and root 
beer. We sat at a table sandwiched between the bowling ball racks and the 
lanes. Time passed without us talking. People we knew came and went. Our 
minds were elsewhere. At around a quarter to seven, realizing that we had 
an hour until dusk, we decided to go out there to investigate. We needed 
answers and it was at least an hour before dark, so we set out back down 
the highway, our feet clopping along even when we tried to walk soft. 

We stood at the ditch watching the cars and trucks pass while waiting 
for the opportunity to duck into the woods unnoticed. 

"Okay, so if he sees us, we run, right?" Chris asked, standing in the 
ditch. 

"I guess so. But what if he's not there?" 

"He's bound to be there, the sun's about to set." He pointed to the 
horizon. 



Ill 



"Maybe we should go back." 

"Aw, don't be a wimp." He turned back to face me. "We'll just look 
around, you know, real Hardy Boys shit, and then we'll leave." 

I looked both ways before crossing the ditch. 

The woods were much darker than before. Shadows had sprung up 
where once small spruces grew. We crept through the brush and limbs 
like a reconnaissance squad. The tent was nearly invisible save for a dim 
light from the cooling embers of a small fire. Inching further, I could 
feel noseeums around my nose and ears trying to wedge their way in. 
Mosquitoes stopped by for an evening suckle of blood. We drew closer to 
the dying fire. 

"See, I told you he wasn't here." Chris slapped his arm. 

"You smell that? What is that . . . baloney?" I asked. 

"Look in the tent?" Chris suggested. 

"You look in the tent." 

"You scared? Chicken?" 

"Why don't you look in the tent? You're the one who wants to know so 
bad," I said in my defense. 

"I guess I'll have to. Should' ve known I couldn't depend on a Parrie to 
man-up." 

I could see right through Chris' teasing and knew he was just as scared 
as I. But he was more determined to see what was inside the tent. He 
unzipped it, looked around, and then stepped inside. I stood alone. The 
dark grew thicker. I imagined animals staring at me with their reflective 
yellow eyes. In the distance, I could hear an eighteen-wheeler. "Probably 
a Con- Agra freighter," I said aloud to the encroaching dark. Chris said 
nothing though I could hear him shuffling through what sounded like 
paper. He clicked things. I stepped to the tent and said, "It's getting really 
dark out here, hurry up." My arms and face itched. "Okay, okay, I'm 
coming," he said, crawling out of the tent feet first. "Nothing here anyway 
except . . ." 

"Beans." A voice called from the woods. 

Chris scrambled out of the tent like a startled cat in a paper bag. He 
turned to run but tripped over one of the tent stakes and fell. I followed 
right behind, hitting the ground hard. When we finally got to our feet, the 
voice said, "Don't go." 



We stood frozen for what seemed like days. I could feel the grit of 
pebbles and prickly grass in my palms. We turned around with our hands 
up at our waists. 

"Don't go. I'm not going to hurt you." 

The voice drew closer until it formed into a gaunt man of about six feet. 
His hair was shaggy and brown and he had a beard with about a month's 
growth. 

"My name's Burt." He stuck out his hand. 

It felt like bark. 

"I've been camping out here for a while and would love some 
company." 

"I'm sorry about your tent," Chris said. 

"Don't be. I can see you didn't steal anything and you're young. Young 
people do that." 

He put down a paper bag of groceries and pulled out a can of pork and 
beans. 

"You guys want one?" 

"Nah, just ate," I said. 

"I had some Spam but I ate it all. Had to go back to the K&B." He 
looked up at us. "I walk to K&B to get my things. It's right down the road 
and convenient as hell. You sure you don't want any?" 

"We're sure," I said. 

"Alright." He spooned beans into his mouth. "Well, now, there seems to 
be a problem." He sat on a milk crate eating. "You two know my name but 
I don't know yours." 

Chris nudged me. 

"My name is Tommy, I'm from here. Well, not from here obviously, but 
I'm from Natchitoches." 

"And I'm Chris, and I'm from here too, well Natchitoches." 

"Well great to meet you guys. Say, do your mothers know where you 
are?" He smirked. 

"Um, yeah, the alley, which we should probably be getting back to 
now," I said. 

"You can't stay for a few more minutes?" he asked. 



113 



"A few minutes then." I looked at Chris who was staring back at me. 
"And then we gotta go." 

"Where you from?" Chris asked. 

"Everywhere, man," he said. 

We sat around the fire that had been rekindled by Burt and got to know 
each other. We told stories and jokes and then, out of nowhere, Burt pulled 
out a bottle of K&B brand bourbon. 

"You guys want a drink?" 

We looked at each other. 

"Hell, yeah." Chris' eyes dilated. "Come on. Tommy; get your first 
drink of whiskey." 

The fire blazed between us, lighting and darkening the early evening. 
It was nearing twilight and the sky grew dark purple. We drank and drank 
until we were all three drunk and laughing and couldn't feel the bugs 
anymore. If that had been an interrogation, Chris and I would have spilled 
our guts over everything. Burt laughed at us. We laughed at ourselves 
while the night crept up on us like a panther. 

"So, Chris, why were you going through my stuff anyway, man?" 

"I don't really know. I guess we, well I thought, that you might have 
been a poacher. I mean, I was just checking to see, you know," Chris said. 

"Oh, well, as you can plainly see, I am a decent fellow." 

"That's right, Burt. You are a decent fellow." 

"What would you have done if I was a poacher?" 

We looked at each other. 

"You guys." He laughed. "I'm just pulling your chain." 

We toasted Burt about five times. The night wore on, the fire shrank, 
and the bottle became less and less full. 

"You know I was in Vietnam." Burt reclined back on the ground. 

"Was a goddamn paratrooper." 

We didn't say anything. 

"Saw the world; then blew the shit out of it." 

Burt broke a twig and threw it into the fire. He looked up at the sky. 

"Yeah, so I guess you guys want to know why I'm living in a tent. 



Well, boys, I'll tell you. You see, I'm a searcher-man." 

"What's a searcher?" I took a sip of the sweet-sour mash that normally 
would have made my whole mouth seize in disgust, but by then, we were 
getting drunk enough not to notice nor care about the taste. 

"What's a searcher? A searcher is somebody who . . . somebody who is 
searching for that something, you know? That something that eludes us all, 
man." He flipped his hand in front of his face to produce a trailing effect. 

"What is it? What eludes us?" Chris sat up with his back straight. 

"I dunno. That depends. It's different for everyone. Tommy over there 
might be looking for the reason to why the sky is blue and you, Chris, you 
may be looking for some ... I don't know, man, some tang but you know 
what?" 

"What?" 

"You search for that one thing because you're hungry for it, you know." 

"What are you searching for, Burt?" Chris asked. 

"Me? Shit, I'm looking for freedom. Max freedom." 

We were quiet after that. I heard another Con- Agra truck pass in the 
distance. I imagined all those crammed-up chickens riding in the night air 
ignorant of their doom. 

"I don't think my mom's getting any better," Chris stared into the fire. 

"What makes you think that?" I asked. 

"What's wrong with your mom?" Burt asked. 

"She's talking to them more and more. Just yesterday, I heard her say 
she had a long conversation with my Aunt Becky about my grades. And 
you know what? My Aunt Becky's been dead since I was eight. She's 
losing her mind and there's nothing I can do about it." 

"It'll be okay, man, the doctors will help her," I said. 

"Fuck the doctors. They don't know shit! I heard Tim say that the 
insurance is almost tapped. What's going to happen when we can't pay the 
bills?" 

"I don't know," I said. 

"I'll tell you what. She'll have to go to the tenth floor at LSU Hospital. 
My own mother is a fucking lunatic, man, and I can't do anything about it!' 
He punched the ground. 



115 



I looked over at him and wanted to give him a hug but instead poked at 
the fire. The flames rose up orange against the red embers. 

"My grades suck and I don't care." He wiped his nose with his hand. "I 
don't care what Mrs. Carmody thinks, she can go to hell. I'll join the Army 
before I let her win." 

"Screw the Army, man." Burt was lying on his back with his head 
propped against a tree trunk. "The Marines is the place to be, full of farms 
and fam-i-ly." 

There was another long quiet. Chris calmed down and so did the fire. I 
could feel the cool night rub against my back like some thankful cat. 

"You know," Burt rose to one elbow, "I'm on my way over to Monroe 
and then from there, I've got a job lined up in South Carolina if you guys 
want to come." He lit a cigarette. "I mean, that's if you want to. I'm not 
making anybody do anything." 

"South Carolina?" Chris sniffled. 

"Yeah, man, old Myrtle herself. Beach, I mean." 

"Myrtle Beach?" 

"Right on the beach," he said. "There's nothing like it. On the beach at 
night, the sky looks like it wants to swallow you whole. And the way the 
moon shimmers off the waves; it's magic, man." 

I looked over at Chris. 

"You're not seriously considering, Chris, you have school. Your mom, 
man." 

"Shut up about my mom," he said. 

The bugs had gotten worse. The fire died as molten coals radiated in its 
ashes. I was beginning to feel the first eddies of sickness from the alcohol. 

"Hey, little dude, you don't have to worry about other people." Burt laid 
more branches on the fire. "I can handle other people." 

"What does that mean?" I asked, disbelieving that the question had 
escaped my mouth . 

"Oh, it just means that I've been on my own for some time now and 
I've picked up few tricks." 

He stood to stretch. 

"Like, when I need something to eat, I go into a store and fill a cart with 
all sorts of shit, only I don't intend on buying any of it. Well except the real 



stuff that I've put in there, which is usually some beans in a can or Spam or 
drinks or whatever." 

I watched him step back and then forward, leaning against a tree for 
balance. I noted that he wasn't wearing shoes. 

"How do you think I got that little ditty you been sipping on all night? I 
can get by. And Chris, if you want to come, I'm leaving tomorrow." 

"I don't know, man," Chris said. 

"Oh, you have second thoughts? That's too bad, my friend." 

"Do you work for Con- Agra or not?" I asked, wanting so bad to zip my 
own lips. 

"What the fuck is Con- Agra?" 

"It's this thing, you know, like a game? See, we ask if you work for 
someone we think is cool, you know," I lied. 

"And if you say the right things then we think you're cool," Chris added. 

"What do they do?" Burt asked. 

"Chicken." 

"No, don't work there. But, I hope I'm cool enough for you two." 

"Uh, yeah, man," I said. 

"Totally cool," Chris said. "You gave us booze." 

"Yeah, I did, didn't I? So you coming with me?" he looked down at us 
from his tree-lean holding something in his hand. I couldn't make out if it 
were a pocket knife or his can opener. I could see a sliver of metal whenever 
he swung out his arm. I could tell that Chris could see this too, but as sick as 
I was, I didn't think I would be able to run let alone fight a grown man with a 
weapon. 

"I think we should get back. Our mom's, my mom, is supposed to pick us 
up in like ten minutes. She can get pretty pissed at times." 

"That's plenty of time to make up your minds," he said. "Look, I've got 
something really cool to show you. You can't tell a soul, okay? If you come 
with me, we can do the town, man. I mean Monroe, Myrtle Beach, Boston, 
Fucking New York City." 

"That's nice but we really have to go." Chris stood. 

"Oh no, man, stay, I've got something to show you. It's really cool." 

"Where is it?" I asked. 



117 



"It's in the tent." 

"I didn't see anything in the tent," Chris said. 

"Are you calling me ... a liar, young man? I'm truly hurt here." He 
grabbed his chest, letting go of the tree and standing straight. His torso 
narrowed and his whipcord body tensed in the firelight. He glistened. 

"No, I'm not calling you a liar, Burt. It's just that, I didn't see 
anything in the tent." 

"Well, maybe it's because you weren't looking hard enough. Look 
again and I promise you'll see it." He grinned. His eyes darkened, 
becoming the encroaching night. His nose lengthened in the shadows. 
I took a step back, careful to step over the tent stake. Burt smiled wide 
showing his teeth. He rubbed his stomach and belched. 

"Okay," he said. "Maybe we got on the wrong foot here. I invited 
you to spend some time on the beach relaxing and looking at beautiful 
naked women year round. Now that's not so bad, is it? I mean, you'd 
have to be queer to refuse that kind of offer." 

He tilted his head and stepped closer. 

"You guys aren't queer, are you?" 

His hand went behind his back. 

"I'm sorry. Kidding, I love everyone. Remember, Chris, Vietnam? 
Your mom? Tommy, you being too small for sports?" 

"I never said that." 

"We bonded, man," Burt said. 

He walked closer and stuck out his hand with the other behind his 
back. 

"Okay, okay, here, I'm sorry. I apologize." he said. "It gets lonely 
out here and sometimes I just need a friend. Are you going to take my 
hand? Are you going to deny me friendship?" 

Chris kicked the fire, spreading hot coals, ash, and dirt all over him. 
Burt stepped back yelling and rubbing coals off his legs. Chris and I ran 
in separate directions through the woods. I ran until my lungs burned. 
I could hear Burt yelling for us to come back. He kept saying he was 
sorry and that he wasn't mad at us. I hid behind a fallen log, listening to 
him yell for us. I crept through the woods in what I hoped was the right 
direction. I had to get back to the alley. Most important, I had to find 
Chris. 



I pushed my way through the woods, listening for Burt and checking 
behind me. Every time I looked back, I imagined him running toward me 
with a gleaming blade and a mad grin. I kept walking, not stopping once 
to worry about possible rattlesnakes hunting at night. After what felt like 
an endless jaunt, I stopped to listen. My ability to see at night had been 
slightly altered by the alcohol but my ears were perfect radars. 

I heard the swish-rumbling of a Con- Agra rig and right then knew that 
the highway wasn't too far away. I followed the sound until I came to the 
edge of the woods. The welcoming emptiness of the highway was the most 
comforting sight in my entire life. I ran toward the road, slipping in the 
ditch and falling to my knees, sliding with velocity. My knees and palms 
were muddy but I didn't care. I didn't care that dirt was getting into the 
scrapes in my palms. I ran down the blacktop. Chris emerged from the 
woods several yards from where I escaped. We met up with each other and 
hauled ass back to the alley, not looking over our shoulders. 

We made it back in time to catch my mom walking in the front door. We 
called to her from the parking lot. When she saw our muddy and disheveled 
appearances, she asked what had happened. We lied and told her that 
we had gotten into a fight with some kids who had already left. We were 
chewed out for fighting. I never told her the truth. I doubted that she would 
have understood. 

Days later, we went back to Burt's campsite but he was gone. The only 
trace of him at all was the tin lid to a can of Spam. I haven't been back 
since but plan to someday. Recently, I have decided to move on. I think 
my search for what it is I'm looking for is leading me to another place. My 
Myrtle Beach. 

Yesterday I got an email from Chris. He works as a consultant for 
a computer company outside of Dallas. His mother was moved to an 
apartment complex for special needs patients and is. from what I hear, 
thriving. Reading the message, I was happy to hear how things had turned 
out for him. 

How's everything? We're okay. Mary Catherine is turning nvo in a 
couple of days and we 're due for another one soon. A son, can you believe 
it! I think I'm going to name him CJ. Do you remember Burt? Of course 
you do. How could we forget? I stumbled on this link I think you should 
check out. Let me know what you think. 



119 



The link led me to an FBI wanted poster. It shocked me, but at the same 
time made perfect sense. The man's name was Leo Frederick Burt, and he'd 
been on the run for nearly forty years. This man, Leo Burt, was wanted for the 
1970 bombing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin. There was a 
reward of $150,000 for information leading to an arrest. Apparently, Leo Burt 
had installed the car bomb that killed a physics researcher and maimed several 
others. According to the article, Leo Burt was part of a group of militant 
anti-war protestors who, ironically, used violence to bring attention to the 
atrocities that were happening during the Vietnam War. Our Burt had said he 
was a "searcher;" a paratrooper. 

The wanted poster called him "The Wisconsin Ghost." In the rest of his 
message, Chris suggested I go back to the woods where we found him in 
1994. He joked that we could split the reward money if he was back, but I 
doubt he'll ever be back. 

I don't know that there ever was a Monroe or a Myrtle Beach in his future, 
but I do believe he was a desperate man and we may have or not have been 
in danger that night. Still, taking the highway that leads in front of that tree 
line makes me anxious. Sometimes, I picture him stepping over the ditch and 
walking east toward the morning sun, his eyes squinting in the bright early 
light. I see him walk out of town and into nowhere. And sometimes, I can hear 
him calling us back down into those woods. 



A^vk5 



oP-a 



>x-e